After four straight seasons of playing all 16 regular-season games, former Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler played just nine last year with Tennessee. Here are Butler’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year as well as the Titans’ over/under win total.
Not many undrafted free agents make it in the NFL but Butler was undrafted in 2014 out of West Alabama and signed with the Patriots. Not only that, he is a two-time Super Bowl champion.
No question that Butler will always be known for what happened at the end of Super Bowl XLIX as the Seattle Seahawks were going for back-to-back titles. For some reason, Seattle on second down at the New England 1-yard line with 20 seconds left in the game attempted a pass instead of giving the ball to bulldozer running back Marshawn Lynch. Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass attempt to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette at the goal line to give New England the 28-24 victory.
It was the only interception of a pass attempt from the 1-yard line during the entire 2014 NFL season, out of 109 such attempts. Butler said that he had guessed correctly that Wilson would throw to Lockette, having read the Seahawks two receiver stack formation.
“From preparation, I remembered the formation they were in … I just beat him to the route and made the play,” he said. While Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, he gave the truck he won to Butler.
Building on that success, Butler earned a Pro Bowl nod in his second season, won a second title in his third season and led the 2017 Patriots defense in snaps before the Super Bowl controversy closed out his fourth year.
In that Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles following the 2017 season, Butler did not play any defensive snaps in the game, only coming in for a single play on special teams. It’s still not clear why Bill Belichick benched him but it obviously was for disciplinary reasons.
Longtime safety Devin McCourty noted in the aftermath of the benching that Patriots players knew Butler wasn’t going to be starting in the game, while other players, like wide receiver Danny Amendola, were caught off guard by it entirely.
When asked about the benching, Butler stated “I don’t know what it was. I guess I wasn’t playing good or they didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know. But I could have changed that game.”
Butler left after that season for a five-year, $61 million free-agent deal with the Titans and $30 million in guarantees. The Titans’ GM is Jon Robinson, who was formerly Belichick’s director of college scouting with the Patriots and a big reason that New England signed Butler out of college.
Butler finished his first season with the Titans with a career-high 69 tackles, 12 pass deflections, three interceptions, a sack, and a touchdown. His first game last year got off to a bang as in a blowout of the Browns, Butler intercepted Baker Mayfield and returned it for a 38-yard touchdown. However, in Week 9 at Carolina, Butler broke his wrist and was put on season-ending injured reserve. In nine games, Butler was credited with 30 tackles, 10 passes defensed and two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Butler earned respectable marks from Pro Football Focus when healthy, grading as the No. 67 corner among 213 qualifiers over nine appearances last year. Butler dropped potential interceptions, which tied him for the most with the Green Bay Packers’ Jaire Alexander, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Carlton Davis, and the New England Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore.
There was some talk the Titans might release him this offseason as they would have saved $7.6 million in cap space but they opted not to – at least thus far. Butler will make $13.3 million in 2020 and $14.2 million 2021.
The Titans are 2-point underdogs for their Week 1 Monday night opener in Denver.