Veteran cornerback Malcolm Butler is on the market after his release from the Titans. Multiple connections could lead him to the Giants.
The New York Giants are set at the No. 1 cornerback position — James Bradberry underwent a superb 2020 season and earned his first-ever Pro Bowl bid. His acquisition, simply speaking, was an above-average move from a general manager who has a history of making below-average decisions.
But that second corner spot is a work-in-progress. Isaac Yiadom isn’t consistent and it’s unclear if Darnay Holmes or Julian Love is capable of manning that spot. The Giants could draft someone in the first or second round, but asking a rookie defensive back to start at such a crucial position would be an overwhelming request.
Big Blue may thus mull the potential signing of a veteran to be a short-term stopgap option while a young draftee develops. For quite some time, some of the top choices in that regard were Xavier Rhodes and Ronald Darby, both veterans who possess expiring contracts.
But as of Tuesday, Malcolm Butler has entered the conversation amid his reported release from the Tennessee Titans.
Given his talent, experience, and most notably, his connections to multiple individuals within the Giants organization, there’s a chance the 31-year-old ends up in East Rutherford.
Butler previously spent time with the Patriots from 2014-17 — you most definitely know him from his game-winning goal-line interception in Super Bowl 49, which sealed New England’s victory over Seattle and brought the Brady-Belichick dynasty back to life. Of course, during his time in Foxborough, he developed connections with then-Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge, then-Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan, and then-Patriots linebackers coach Patrick Graham.
Yes, three important names now part of the Giants organization, with Judge serving as the head coach, Graham having just signed an extension to remain the defensive coordinator, and Ryan having agreed to a three-year extension this past Christmas Day to stay with the team through at least 2023.
Butler additionally played with Ryan in Tennessee from 2018-19.
The connections are important — they’re partly what brought Graham and Ryan to East Rutherford last year. Now, the same could occur with Butler, who had some of his best seasons in New England alongside the aforementioned individuals, including a Pro Bowl 2015 campaign and a 2016 season that saw him become a second-team All-Pro.
The reasoning for the Giants potentially acquiring Butler doesn’t just halt at the connections though. This past season (16 games, all starts), Malcolm showed he can still portray on-field physicality, having racked up 89 solo tackles — the most among all cornerbacks measured at Pro Football Focus. However, the coverage-related struggles were an issue; Butler allowed 73 receptions — also the most among cornerbacks measured.
Overall, his Pro Football Focus grade was a solid 71.6.
So what would Butler cost?
The veteran most recently possessed a contract that provided him with an average annual salary of $12.25 million over five years, but he wouldn’t be worth that much given his ever-increasing age (Butler is entering his age-31 season).
Affording him wouldn’t be easy considering the Giants’ limited cap space and the need to re-sign both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, but if the front office correctly handled the negotiation process, there’s a chance the team could ink Butler to the type of contract Ryan received last summer (one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million).
Right now, the Giants are $5.5 million over the cap but still may part ways with offensive guard Kevin Zeitler (would save $12 million this offseason) and offensive tackle Nate Solder (would save $6 million this offseason). Pulling off either move could clear the amount of space necessary to bring Butler to New York.