Green Bay Packers: Time to ring in Malcolm Butler

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Malcolm Butler
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Malcolm Butler /

Though in-season trades maybe as common as a crippling ice storm in the middle of August for the current Packers’ regime, an exception should be considered for a proven 27-year-old cornerback with a history of rising to the occasion in big games.

The athlete in question is current New England Patriot Malcolm Butler, who let it be known that he wanted to sign a new long-term deal almost two years prior to his walk season and now continues to find himself on the trading block as a result.

The Patriots, according to NESN’s Doug Kyed, are likely to move their backfield asset in exchange for pass-rush help.

So, how interested should Ted Thompson be in finding a way to secure Butler’s services? Very.

Though we may only be two weeks into the 2017 regular season, one cannot dispute the fact that Green Bay’s secondary doesn’t look to be much improved over last year’s version.

While rookie Kevin King is showing positive signs of becoming the type of long, physical lockdown corner the team has lacked since the days of Charles Woodson and Al Harris, the same can’t be said for their other cover specialists.

Damarious Randall is a former first-round pick the coaching staff continues to trot out there in hopes of him maturing into a reliable defender, but his mental breakdowns and lack of instincts are still hindering his progress.

Quentin Rollins, on the other hand, is shaping up to be quite the hard-nosed defender in run support, but isn’t quite as skilled in reading routes in pass coverage.

In addition, free agent acquisition Davon House hasn’t yet delivered that veteran presence the coaching staff thought it was getting, as the former Jaguar has been victimized by penalty flags and bad reads in defending the run.

And what do the Packers have beyond that trio of veteran corners? Not much outside of a few young understudies that offer upside, but very little game experience.

It isn’t often that a difference-making cornerback under the age of 30 suddenly becomes available to help team decision makers immediately address a major need.

If the Packers are in “win-now” mode, as they’ve acknowledged with their offseason free-agent activity, then there’s no time like the present to cough up a second or third-round pick to bring Butler to Packers News.

Green Bay may not have the type of pass rusher Bill Belichick seeks, but packaging second-year outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell with a draft pick may be enough to seal the deal.

Cynical Packer backers may be wondering why the savvy Patriots would be willing to part with a player like Butler, who not too long ago heroically pulled off the biggest play in Super Bowl history by jumping in front of a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone and securing his team a fourth Lombardi Trophy?

Because that’s the way Belichick does business.

No one player, regardless of his talent level, is bigger than the team and because of that belief, extensions aren’t typically provided to athletes that ask for them way in advance of their contracts expiring.

Linebacker Jamie Collins found himself in a similar predicament last season and instead of being rewarded with a new deal, wound up in NFL purgatory by being dealt to the Cleveland Browns.

In all fairness, though, Butler isn’t helping his cause of remaining in a Patriots’ uniform by delivering subpar performances dating back to the preseason.

No. 21 is clearly pressing, as evidenced by the fact that he’s been out of position on quite a few plays in the early going.

As a result, the two-time Super Bowl champion has lost his starting job to Eric Rowe.

Contract disputes are a funny thing that can affect individuals in a variety of ways. Butler, from the looks of things, is buckling under the pressure of playing for his second contract—the one that can supply him with the type of financial security every professional dreams of.

Are his on-field struggles partially fueled by a tentative style of play motivated by his efforts to avoid any kind of injury that would negate him of his long-awaited payday? Only he knows, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player harbored those thoughts as he’s about to ram his shoulder pads into an oncoming opponent.

One can either focus on Butler’s last few games (including the preseason) or his years of service prior to the start of the current year in evaluating whether he’s worth the princely sum of a Day-2 pick.

Butler has easily been a top-10 corner since becoming a starter in 2015. In a report released in late January, in fact, Pro Football Focus (PFF) endorsed the fourth-year pro as not only one of the best at his position, but as the 25th-best player overall.

They justified their ranking by highlighting Butler’s aggressiveness and big-play ability when matched up against dominant receivers.

In total, the young cover man allowed fewer than 20 receiving yards seven times in 2016 (including the postseason) and had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer catches.

Butler may not be quite as dominant as Darrelle Revis circa 2010, but when he’s on his game, he can body up and re-route opposing pass catchers with his underrated strength.

What’s more, the Mississippi-born defender has a Richard Sherman-like knack for tracking the football and high-pointing it.

Over the years, Butler has honed the technical part of his game, as evidenced by his coverage of Emmanuel Sanders in New England’s Week 15 victory over the Broncos last December.

Throughout the contest, Butler masterfully avoided falling into the trap of overcommitting to his man, who tried burning him with a series of double moves.

The other bonus the Packers would be inheriting by investing in Butler is the fact that he’s by all accounts a “humble” and “genuine” person who shouldn’t have any concerns fitting in with new teammates.

Thompson’s draft-and-develop mantra is a rock-solid management style that has played a major role in the Packers being a perennial playoff contender, but depriving yourself of a top corner to hold on to a second-round pick would be short-sighted.

While draft picks are the life blood of any team, a win-now franchise trading a maybe for a proven commodity can be the difference between losing another NFC Championship to the Falcons and holding up a title in February.

The Packers have repeatedly demonstrated that they don’t have what it takes to stop Atlanta’s passing game. Well, maybe now is the time to do something about it.