Now that Josh Norman is on the open market, a flurry of rumors have begun, and some of them have connected the New England Patriots to the star cornerback. However, signing Norman would come at a huge cost to the Patriots. In addition to the financial cost, there would be one overriding intangible cost: Malcolm Butler.
Look, the reason why some people out there want the Patriots to chase Norman is understandable: he was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2015. After all, in 2014, the Patriots signed the best corner from the 2013 season, Darrelle Revis.
But here’s the thing. The circumstances of the Revis deal were very different. The Patriots essentially rented the elite cornerback for $12 million to replace Aqib Talib. It should also be noted that the Patriots didn’t have such a huge group of free agents set to hit the open market the following season, which is the situation they are facing now.
Signing Norman woulds screw everything up salary cap wise, as Tom E. Curran noted this week:
“They have contract extensions to do with Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower in the next 10 to 15 months. All of those will be Pro Bowl-level deals. They also have a Hall of Fame tight end who may or may not be irked about the deal he agreed to a few years ago.
“Bringing in Norman for the price he’d command would blow up the team’s pay structure. Could they do it? Yes. They could absolutely screw Butler by letting him play for the $600,000 this year and then – since he’s a restricted free agent next year – sign him to the high-tender offer and milk the undrafted kid with no leverage for the first four seasons of his NFL career. Then they could give Norman the money they would have paid Butler.
Elaborating on Curran’s last point there, an intangible cost of signing Norman would be disrespecting Butler. On his own accord completely, Butler has risen from undrafted anonymity to stardom as the Patriots’ No. 1 corner. He picked up the slack when Revis left and the Patriots are indebted to him for that, especially considering his bargain basement contract.
Signing Norman would essentially be waving goodbye to Butler, as the confident cornerback would be understandably disgruntled and would look to cash-in with a team that values his No. 1 pedigree.
The Patriots are perfectly fine with Butler as the No. 1 for the foreseeable future.