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2018 NFL free agency: Malcolm Butler a match for Giants?

Cornerback might fit Big Blue after messy exit from New England

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
Malcolm Butler
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Butler as a member of the New York Giants? At first blush, it wouldn’t seem that the Giants have a need for Butler, who is leaving the New England Patriots as a free agent after his controversial benching in Super Bowl 52.

Look closer at the Giants’ cornerback situation, though, and things are not nearly as settled as they may seem. Not after a season where the three primary players they have under contract all served suspensions.

  • Eli Apple was the biggest problem child at a problem position for the Giants in 2017. Lack of effort at times, inability to take criticism, a season-ending suspension after a practice field argument with a coach, the impression that he may have been one of the anonymous sources critical of then-coach Ben McAdoo and a spat with Landon Collins were among the issues he had. New GM Dave Gettleman said at his introductory press conference that he had learned not to quite on talent. Apple, the Giants’ 2016 first-round pick, has that. Still, off a 3-13 season and with a fractured locker room to rebuild, there is no guarantee Gettleman and new coach Pat Shurmur will want Apple to be part of that. He was part of the problem in 2017. Will the new regime see him as part of the solution? We will find out over the next few months.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played well last season. He is, however, 31, and in the last year of an expensive contract. He carries an $8.5 million cap hit in 2018 and the Giants could save $6.5 million against the cap by cutting him. Maybe they re-structure his deal, but parting with him is a possibility. Gettleman has a history of being unafraid to move on from expensive veteran players.
  • Ross Cockrell, who played well for the Giants after being acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers, is an unrestricted free agent.
  • Finally, there is Janoris Jenkins. Jackrabbit is among the game’s best corners — when he is showing up and giving effort. Remember, he got suspended last year when he did not return from the team’s bye week on time and did not communicate with the team. It doesn’t seem likely, especially if the Giants part with either or both DRC or Apple, but if the Giants chose the “clean out the locker room” approach they could save $11 million against the cap by designating Jenkins a post-June 1 cut.

All of which brings us back to Butler. If the Giants part ways with some combination of Apple, Jenkins, Rodgers-Cromartie and Cockrell they will need cornerback help. NFL defenses simply can’t thrive without multiple quality cornerbacks.

Butler, who will turn 28 in March, is one.

Butler will mostly be known for his two vastly different Super Bowl moments. Being the hero of Super Bowl 49 for a goal-line interception, and then his as-yet unexplained benching for the Patriots’ Super Bowl 52 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Butler, though, is more than that. He was a starter for New England the past three seasons and was a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2016.

Butler is an unrestricted free agent, and after the events of the Super Bowl there is no doubt he will be leaving the Patriots.

Wednesday, Butler issued a statement about the benching and what he termed the “ridiculous” rumors as to what caused it.

Spotrac estimates Butler’s market value at $13 million annually, figuring he can find a deal worth five years, $65 million on the open market.

Would you like to see the Giants make room for him at that price tag?

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