Four years after his famous benching in Super Bowl LII, Malcolm Butler is back in a Patriots uniform.
Butler emerged from a brief retirement to sign a 2-year deal with New England on Wednesday, a source confirmed to the Herald. The 32-year-old corner last played in 2020, when he started every game for the Titans and posted career highs with four interceptions and 100 tackles. He announced his retirement in Aug. 2021, following a short stint with the Cardinals.
Butler started his career as an undrafted rookie with the Patriots in 2014. He completed their storybook season by snatching a goal-line interception in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks to seal the franchise’s fourth championship. He spent three more years with the Patriots, including one Pro Bowl campaign. His tenure ended famously with a mysterious benching during the team’s loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
That night, Butler took just one rep on the Pats’ punt return team and did not play a defensive snap. He left the following offseason to sign a 5-year, $61.25 million free-agent deal with the Titans. Over three seasons in Tennessee, he started 36 of 41 regular-season games, snatched nine picks, broke up 35 passes and made 201 tackles.
Butler worked out for the Patriots on Monday, a couple weeks after trying out for the Texans and former Pats director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He will help fill a major roster hole at cornerback, where the Pats have lost J.C. Jackson to free agency and signed journeyman Terrance Mitchell.
Last season, Jackson replaced Stephon Gilmore as the team’s No. 1 corner. In 2018, the Patriots allowed Butler to walk as a free agent and Gilmore emerged to replace him. None of the team’s current corners are suited for a top role, though the defense is building better depth.
The Patriots currently have Butler, Mitchell, Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and Justin Bethel on their depth chart.
In his last full season, Butler allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63 percent of their passes against him for an average of 7.7 yards per target, per Pro Football Focus. They tossed four touchdowns and four interceptions and posted a QB rating of 83.7.
Andrew Callahan, Boston Herald