It remains unclear where cornerback Malcolm Butler will play next season.

Duron Harmon spoke about Malcolm Butler on Friday. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

Duron Harmon spoke about Malcolm Butler on Friday. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

It remains unclear where cornerback Malcolm Butler will play next season.

He could return for his fourth year with the Patriots, or he could play elsewhere because another team put in an offer sheet for him, or the Patriots could trade him. Butler met with the Saints this week and coach Sean Payton had nothing but good things to say.

Butler is on the books for $3.91 million with his first-round tender, but feels he deserves more money.

Safety Duron Harmon would love to have him back, but understands Butler needs to do what is best for him.

“I love Malcolm. I love being his teammate,” Harmon said on a conference call Friday. “What he brings to the football field, what he brings to the locker room. I would love being his teammate, but it’s a business more than anything. I know people have to do what is best for them. I am rooting for him that he gets to do whatever he feels is best for him.”

The Patriots added Stephon Gilmore to the secondary and Harmon noted how important communication is to the success of the unit.

“We have to put the work,” Harmon said. “We have to work hard on the practice field and in the classroom. We have to stay after it. We know how much we like to run around here and communication is very key to how we play good defense. It will always be that way so we have to make sure the communication is up to par and it’s going to be on us to make sure everybody is communicating the right stuff.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

For the first time in 17 years, Rex Ryan won’t be coaching in the NFL next season. Instead, he’ll be bloviating on TV.

The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in 17 years, Rex Ryan won’t be coaching in the NFL next season. Instead, he’ll be bloviating on TV.

According to the New York Daily News, ESPN has signed Ryan to a multi-year deal to serve as an NFL analyst. The ex-Jets and Bills coach will have a spot on “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

ESPN is in the process of overhauling its signature NFL studio show. With longtime host Chris Berman stepping down, the program will take on a different feel next season. Though Trey Wingo and Suzy Kolber have long been considered the favorites to succeed Berman, sideline reporter Sam Ponder has reportedly gained momentum as a surprise candidate to fill the chair. Last year, ESPN added Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson to the analyst desk. They replaced Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson.

Ryan’s bombastic nature may have worked against him as a head coach, but it should suit him just fine as a talking head.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

Why did it take so long for Dont’a Hightower’s market to come in free agency?

Maybe it wasn’t just because teams didn’t see how they could use him properly, but rather teams had some injury concerns.

The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont'a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont’a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Why did it take so long for Dont’a Hightower’s market to come in free agency?

Maybe it wasn’t just because teams didn’t see how they could use him properly, but rather teams had some injury concerns.

Hightower battled shoulder and knee issues in 2016 and has only played a full season once in his five-year career, not playing more than 13 games in each of his last three seasons.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Jets’ interest in Hightower “zeal diminished” after giving him a physical when he was in for a visit on Sunday. The report added the Jets made an initial offer of $62.5 million over five years, but after the physical the guarantees wouldn’t be something Hightower would agree to.

The MMQB’s Albert Breer added the Jets actually pulled their offer after the physical, so it appears there were legitimate concerns with the linebacker.

The Patriots know Hightower better than anyone in the league given he’s spent five years with the organization, and were seemingly comfortable signing him to a four-year deal, but it definitely is worth noting a possible reason it took so long for his market to develop was because of injury concerns.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont'a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont’a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Why did it take so long for Dont’a Hightower’s market to come in free agency?

Maybe it wasn’t just because teams didn’t see how they could use him properly, but rather teams had some injury concerns.

Hightower battled shoulder and knee issues in 2016 and has only played a full season once in his five-year career, not playing more than 13 games in each of his last three seasons.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Jets’ interest in Hightower “zeal diminished” after giving him a physical when he was in for a visit on Sunday. The report added the Jets made an initial offer of $62.5 million over five years, but after the physical the guarantees wouldn’t be something Hightower would agree to.

The MMQB’s Albert Breer added the Jets actually pulled their offer after the physical, so it appears there were legitimate concerns with the linebacker.

The Patriots know Hightower better than anyone in the league given he’s spent five years with the organization, and were seemingly comfortable signing him to a four-year deal, but it definitely is worth noting a possible reason it took so long for his market to develop was because of injury concerns.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Malcolm Butler has given the Patriots plenty of reasons to celebrate. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)The Patriots do not fear letting their players hit the free agent market. Go find an offer, they say. See what's out there.



Malcolm Butler appears destined for New Orleans. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler appears destined for New Orleans. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Restricted free agent Malcolm Butler visited with the Saints on Wednesday and Thursday, and according to coach Sean Payton, the visit went well.

So well that Payton was comfortable talking about the 27-year-old on Xtra 360 radio in San Diego on Friday morning.

“You know, coming out of a small town in Mississippi and through junior college and into West Alabama, it’s pretty amazing,” Payton said courtesy of ESPN.com. “And the first three years he’s had in this league, shoot, he’s had a tremendous amount of success, winning two Super Bowls in three years and being a big part of a team that’s accomplished a lot. So I’d say he’s humble, but when you watch the tape, he plays with a chip on his shoulder.”

Payton added: “We’ve practiced with New England now in that three-year time frame twice, so there’s a lot of additional practice tape that we have a chance to look closely at. And I’m sure Bill [Belichick] and his staff were the same way when evaluating [Brandin] Cooks.”

Butler is a restricted free agent, not an unrestricted free agent, which is where things get tricky.

Since the Patriots gave him the first-round tender, he’s on the books for $3.91 million in 2017 once he signs the deal and if another team places an offer sheet on him and the Patriots do not match, the Patriots get that team’s first-round pick in return. In the Saints’ case it would be the No. 11 overall pick. New Orleans appears hesitant to do that, but probably would be willing to part ways with their No. 32 pick, which they got from New England in the Brandin Cooks trade.

The way to get to that point would be working out a trade after Butler agrees to sign his tender offer. Given the relationship between Bill Belichick and Payton, this could happen. It’s also worth noting this could have came up last week in the Cooks trade talks and some agreement could have already been made, as Butler was rumored to be included in the deal, but ultimately wasn’t. Once Butler gets to the Saints, it’s likely he will get a long-term deal.

Keep in mind, there’s no guarantee Butler leaves New England because the Patriots hold all the leverage and it’s worth noting Mike Lombardi believes the cornerback is staying put. But, things have gone pretty far with the Saints and Butler has let his feelings be known that he’s open to joining the Saints. Because of both things, it’s pretty hard to imagine the cornerback will return to the Patriots.

Also, it’s very unusual for a coach to discuss a player after just a free agent visit unless he’s pretty certain that player ultimately is going to join the team. Even the Saints’ team Twitter account was getting involved on Thursday.

As the old saying goes, when there’s smoke there’s fire, and this certainly seems like a case of it being just a matter of time before Butler is with the Saints.

Don’t forget, the Patriots and Saints meet in New Orleans this season, which will be interesting.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Although it wasn’t much of a surprise given all the rumors last week, once it became official last Friday there were some questions of why exactly did the Saints trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots.

Did Cooks want out? Did the Saints not want him?