Two days after inviting Malcolm Butler in for a workout, the Patriots are re-signing the cornerback on a two-year deal, according to Butler’s agent, Derek Simpson.
The deal is worth a maximum of $9 million, which includes all the incentives.
Butler, 32, is attempting a comeback after retiring from the NFL last August for personal reasons. The Patriots have a hole at cornerback after losing J.C. Jackson in free agency, and Butler is familiar with the Patriots defense and can provide solid depth alongside Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones.
A seven-year veteran, Butler last played in 2020 with the Titans, and had one of the best years of his career; he tied a career high with four interceptions, set a career high with 100 tackles, and started all 16 games.
Butler played for the Patriots from 2014-17 and became one of the most significant figures in franchise lore. An undrafted rookie in 2014 who worked at Popeye’s and had to try out in minicamp just to make the team, Butler became an instant sensation at the end of that season when he intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass in the end zone to seal the win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. The interception is one of the most famous plays in NFL history and brought the Patriots their first championship in 10 years.
Butler became a full-time starter for the Patriots in 2015, and started 54 of 56 games (including playoffs) over the next three seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2015. Butler, who has 17 career interceptions in seven seasons, then played for the Titans from 2018-20.
But his Patriots career ended in an ignominious way four years ago. Butler, who had played in 98 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2017, was benched for that season’s 41-33 Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.
Butler played just one snap on the punt team and didn’t appear on defense; he said he never got a straight answer from coach Bill Belichick as to why. Belichick has never provided a reason publicly, and Butler’s benching remains one of the great mysteries — and perhaps one of the biggest regrets — of the Patriots’ 22-year run under Belichick.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.