Patriots Super Bowl Hero & Disappointing Wide Receiver Named Possible Surprise Cuts

New England Patriots

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The New England Patriots may have traded N’Keal Harry, but the organization still has some moves it will have to make before the start of the 2022 regular season.

Andy Hart of WEEI named two prominent Patriots — Malcolm Butler and Nelson Agholor — who could lose their jobs when he projected surprise cuts the team could make before the season opener.

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Butler Unretired in March

It might come as a shock to Patriots fans that Hart would mention Butler, the hero of the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl, as a surprise cut candidate. Butler, who abruptly retired at the end of the Arizona Cardinals’ 2021 training vamp, didn’t even play in 2021 but was brought back by New England in March on a two-year, $5 million contract.

“The veteran cornerback was out of football a year ago,” Hart wrote on July 18. “Now, he’s back and penciled in as a starting cornerback where his unique career began in New England.”

Butler appears primed to be New England’s top cornerback after the team lost J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. But he hasn’t seen on-field action since January 10, 2021.

“Butler appears to be in very good shape,” Hart wrote. “He looked plenty competitive in the spring. But he’s still a 32-year-old cornerback who was retired a year ago. That leaves enough uncertainty to put the former Super Bowl hero on the list. Butler would leave $750,000 in dead cap money if cut, according to Spotrac.”

In Butler’s last season with the Tennessee Titans, he started all 16 games and came away with three interceptions.

Agholor: Minimal Production Last Year

Agholor struggled in his debut season with New England, catching only 58% of his targets and ranking fourth on the team in receiving yards. He had only 37 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns.

“Agholor was a big time disappointment in 2021,” Hart wrote. “There is hope that he might move into more of a slot role in 2022 and that could increase his production. Still, it’s not hard to think the Patriots receiver depth chart could fill out with DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton and maybe Nixon, leaving Agholor as an expensive man without much of a role. The finances probably keep the veteran in the mix, though.”

Agholor, 29, is in the final year of a two-year deal worth $22 million. His production last season makes that deal look like a massive overpay.

“Financially, cutting Agholor is really tough to swallow as it would leave a $10 million dead cap hit for one of last year’s big-money free agent signings,” Hart wrote. “With $9 million of that money salary, New England would probably love to try to work out some sort of a trade to ease the burden, but that may be difficult.”

Players are expected to report to the Patriots’ training camp on July 26, with the first practice on the following day. Coaches will get to see what players are capable of as they prepare to make cuts prior to the regular season. Final roster cutdowns will be made on August 30.

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