Patriots to Host Former Super Bowl Hero in Comeback Bid: Report

Bill Belichick

Getty The Patriots are hosting former cornerback Malcolm Butler for a tryout.

The New England Patriots could be on the verge of signing one of their more notable franchise players.

As initially reported by Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, the Patriots will host Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for a tryout on Monday, March 21.

“Down a starting cornerback after letting J.C. Jackson leave in free agency, the Patriots are holding a tryout on Monday with a familiar — and perhaps unexpected — face,” said Volin.

“Four years after he was a surprise benching in the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, cornerback Malcolm Butler is back in Foxborough on Monday for a tryout with the Patriots, a league source confirmed to the Globe.”

Butler’s Deep History With Patriots

Butler signed with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2021 season but retired prior to the start of the season due to personal issues. However, it was reported by Mike Giardi of NFL Network in February that Butler was seeking a comeback.

The 32-year-old spent the first four seasons of his career with the Patriots from 2014 until 2017. The former Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection is best known for his game-winning interception at the goal line in the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks during his rookie season.

However, Butler’s stint with the Patriots is also known for a lowlight — his unexplained benching during New England’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2017 season. Butler had started the entire season prior to his benching during the biggest game of the season.

Head coach Bill Belichick had little explanation for the decision, calling it a coach’s decision and not due to disciplinary issues.

While a member of the Tennessee Titans in 2019, Butler claimed he harbored no ill-will towards Belichick for his benching in Super Bowl XLIX.

Via Doug Kyed of NESN:

“I enjoyed my time (in New England),” Butler said. “Everything happened for a reason, and I’m still happy. I’m still in the NFL. I still have a great relationship with those guys. It’s all good. … It’s the past, man. I’m past that.”

During Butler’s peak season in 2016, he posted an 86.9 coverage grade, ranking sixth among all cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Even in Butler’s last season in 2020, he remained one of the better corners in the league, posting a 75.8 coverage grade, ranking 16th among all corners.

While things may not have ended perfectly the first time around in New England, it’s clear both sides are open to a reunion four years after Super Bowl XLIX.

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Patriots Hosting Fournette for Visit

The Patriots could also be looking at a new running back.

According to a report from ESPN’s Field Yates on March 21, New England is interested in free agent running back Leonard Fournette.

“The Patriots are hosting free agent RB Leonard Fournette on a visit today, per source,” said Yates. “The 27-year old is coming off of the best all around season of his career with 812 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD and 69 catches for 454 yards in 2021.”

Fournette has spent the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after beginning his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 27-year-old running back has emerged as one of the better backs in the league while playing in Tampa Bay, posting an 80.0 rushing grade for the Bucs in 2021, according to PFF.

New England recently lost running back Brandon Bolden and fullback Jakob Johnson in free agency and could be looking for a new back to pair with Damien Harris.

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