Lost in the many stories surrounding the typically scrutinized Patriots this season - even amid questions about the secondary - is that Super Bowl LII could very be Malcolm Butler's final game in a Patriots uniform. But in his first appearance with reporters during Super Bowl week after battling an illness, the cornerback gave an affirmation that he would like to stay put.
Via NESN's Zack Cox, Butler ostensibly gave a definitive answer on whether he wants to re-sign with New England.
"Without a doubt," said Butler. "Without a doubt."
Still, free agency looms for the 27-year-old. And the 2018 league year could be his last chance to really cash in with a lucrative long-term extension, and that likely wouldn't come from the Patriots.
What To Expect
It's possible that Butler ends up in a similar situation to Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty, who both tested the free-agent waters before ultimately signing team-friendly extensions to stay with the Patriots. Still, it's different for premium cornerbacks than it is for middle linebackers or free safeties, and Butler could end up with a deal similar to Stephon Gilmore's five-year, $65 million deal. Maybe even better.
It depends on how other teams view him around the league - which could be a little murky right now, considering that Butler took a slight step back this season after ascending to the conversation among the league's best corners in his first three NFL seasons.
But he's at least made it clear which uniform he'd like to wear next season. And after what seemed like a tumultuous offseason last summer between the cornerback and the Patriots, that should be a bit of a relief for Patriots fans. His apparent discord with the team was certainly born of his desire to stay, but it's promising that the resulting tension didn't change his mind.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].