Some people forget the Patriots still have Cyrus Jones. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)
Malcolm Butler is in New Orleans meeting with the Saints and it appears it’s more and more likely Butler will not be playing in New England next season given how far things have gone to this point.
The 27-year-old could have another team sign him to an offer sheet and the Patriots could refuse to match and they would get a first-round pick in return, or he simply could be traded
The Patriots gained Stephon Gilmore, but lost Logan Ryan so from the 2016 defense, Gilmore would replace Butler, but they would still be without a No. 2 cornerback. It’s too late in the game to add a quality player via free agency and the Patriots likely won’t be able to land a NFL-ready cornerback in the draft, so they may need to rely on players already in their system.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
New England had a few cornerbacks show flashes last season, and just look at Butler himself after Revis left. He went from an undrafted rookie to a No. 1 corner. While no one will likely make that jump, the Patriots have players capable of developing into quality No. 2 cornerbacks to play opposite Gilmore.
Cyrus Jones — People forget Jones was a second-round pick out of Alabama. While he had a disappointing rookie season, he’s a talented player. There’s a reason he was a second-round pick. He himself admitted he needs to be better and seems like a player determined to prove to people his rookie season was not how his entire NFL career will go. If Jones puts the time in, and doesn’t let his rookie season get to him, there’s a good chance he could be a solid No. 2 cornerback in New England next season.
Eric Rowe — This is proving to be a great trade for the Patriots, as they acquired the corner for a conditional fourth-round pick early last season from the Eagles. At 6-foot-1, he’s a relatively bigger cornerback and proved he can go against some of the best big receivers in the league. He shut down A.J. Green in the second half of the Bengals game last season. Rowe even was ahead of Ryan on the depth chart in the middle of last season. There is a talented player there and seems to be poised for a big role in 2017.
Jonathan Jones — The undrafted rookie mostly played special teams last year, but when Cyrus Jones struggled, Jonathan Jones stepped in and played pretty well in the slot. While he certainly cannot be counted on in a big role, if he continues to develop, the Patriots could use him a good amount next season in sub-packages.
Justin Coleman — Coleman had a tough 2016 season, but he’s been in the Patriots’ system for a few seasons and who knows, maybe he steps up and can be a contributor. Stranger things have happened in Foxboro.