Former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was one of the hottest names in free agency this year, but after an odd benching in the Super Bowl, it was unclear if teams would stay away or hotly pursue the former All Pro. Butler ended up signing a five-year, $61 million deal with the Tennessee Titans, but there appeared to be a bidding war for his services.
Among the teams that reported interest in Butler were the Detroit Lions. With Butler’s former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia now leading the Lions, that interest wasn’t all that surprising. But how serious was their interest? One report suggested the Lions were finalists with one other team. However, the other team named was the Texans, who obviously didn’t land Butler either.
Butler himself gave a little clarity in a short documentary for Sports Illustrated’s mini-series: “Si: Under the Cover.” In Butler’s episode, a film crew followed the free agent cornerback around as he spoke with his agent, family and friends during the few days of free agency deliberation and negotiation.
The Lions had interest, there is no denying that. During a call on the opening day of free agency, Butler’s agent, Derek Simpson, told him of the teams that have expressed interest. “The teams that I think, right now, that have shown the most interests are the Bears, the Saints, the Titans, the Texans, and I also got a call from the Lions,” Simpson said. “We’re about to find out how serious they are.”
But as the documentary went on, it’s clear the Lions’ interest waned. The Bears and Titans made early multi-year offers, both for at least $10 million a year. The Texans reportedly wanted to sign him to a one-year deal. But Butler’s agent never made mention of an offer from the Lions. In fact, the Lions were only mentioned twice during the entire 11-minute documentary.
The other time? Early in the video, Butler asked his brother what team he’s hoping he’ll land with. “Either Houston or Detroit,” his brother answered.
“What if they ain’t called?” Butler quickly responded.
While the Lions could have given an off-screen offer to Butler, this documentary proves Detroit was never truly a finalist to land the cornerback. That honor belonged to the Titans, Bears and Texans.