NEW ORLEANS Anyone else find it curious that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems willing to part ways with Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcom Butler, a restricted free-agent cornerback and the current object of attention of the New Orleans Saints?
Belichick isn't in the business of letting good players/good people go ... unless there is a very good reason. He's in the business of winning Super Bowls -- two in the last three years, five overall with New England. Period. End of story.
In Butler's case, he reportedly want more money than Belichick the GM is willing to pay, which is why Saints GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton are exploring a trade with the Patriots. There are still miles to go before a deal could be struck -- a long-term, megabucks deal must be signed and the teams must agree on compensation -- but the window of opportunity remains open.
On paper, Butler checks all the boxes for a pass defense-challenged Saints defense. He's regarded as a top-shelf cover corner that Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen could pair with third-year undrafted cornerback, Delvin Breaux.
And yet I wonder if Butler, a 27-year-old undrafted free agent from the University of West Alabama, is merely a product of a tried-and-true defensive system who has greatly benefited from the combined genius of Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Butler's stats relatively modest -- six INTs, one forced fumble, one sack, 35 pass breakups, 145 tackles and one Pro Bowl selection. But he's better than any defensive back currently on the Saints roster and he has two Super Bowl rings (XLIX, LI) to prove it.
And yet I wonder if there would be all this fuss if, say, he hadn't stepped in front of intended Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and intercepted a pass with 20 seconds remaining to preserve the Patriots 28-24 victory in Super Bowl XLIX.
Another Super Bowl hero cornerback comes to mind. Remember Larry Brown, a relatively unheralded member of the Dallas Cowboys secondary? He became the first cornerback to be named MVP of a league championship game after making two INTs in a 27-17 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX to cap off the 1995 season.
In the offseason, Brown parlayed that performance into a lucrative five-year, $12.5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, only to be waived after playing just 12 games in two years.
I also think of safety Jairus Byrd, who had no Super Bowl heroics but somehow coaxed a then-record six-year, $54 million contract from Saints officials in March 2014 that featured $28 million in guaranteed money. By all accounts, Byrd's resume' was impeccable -- a three-time Pro Bowler with 22 INTs, a game-changing, ball-hawking difference maker in the back end of the secondary.
Byrd turned out to be a bust, fool's gold wrapped in shining aluminum foil and was released a week ago.
Brown turned out to be much to do about nothing for the Raiders, returning to the Cowboys for his final NFL season in 1998 with his tail between his legs.
It remains to be seen what role, if any, Butler plays with the Saints.
My unsolicited advice to Loomis and Payton is proceed with caution. Perception is not always reality.