Patriots release former second-round pick Butler

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Patriots release former second-round pick Butler

By Phil Perry and Jimmy Toscano
CSNNE.com

Darius Butler is no longer a member of the Patriots.

On Tuesday afternoon the third-year corner back tweeted: "Its been real New England. I was blessed to have a chance to play and start my NFL career here. But its time to open a new chapter. Thx patsnation"

Hours later, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported that the cornerback was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers.

After a productive rookie season in 2009, the second-round pick out of UConn has been a disappointment. In his first year, he made 35 tackles and recorded 3 interceptions. He also defended eight passes.

Last season, he had a chance to step up and have a big role in the Patriots secondary with cornerback Leigh Bodden out for the season but he didn't capitalize on the opportunity. Kyle Arrington, primarily used as a special-teamer at the time, overtook Butler on the depth chart, and Butler was relegated to a bench role.

Coming off the bench, his production went down in every category in 2010 as he finished with just 23 tackles and zero interceptions, and as he told Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, things weren't working out.

It kind of went downhill from there, Butler acknowledged. I never faced that kind of adversity when it came to sports, being benched. I just was not playing up to the level I expected to, and the level the team expected. Not seeing the field as much as last year, that was tough.

The Patriots drafted cornerback Ras-I Dowling in the second round this year, and Bodden is back from last season's shoulder injury. When healthy, Bodden looks like he will be a starter at cornerback opposite Devin McCourty. The Patriots also have cornerbacks Arrington and Antwaun Molden on the roster.

That gave the Patriots options heading into the season.

I didnt know how it would work out, a trade or release," he told ESPNBoston.com. "Im not really surprised by it. Things werent working out with me and the team. Its not really a shocker. You can kind of see the writing on the wall sometimes. It was best for both parties.

If you think this move somehow negates Tom E. Curran's stance that Bill Belichick still knows how to recognize talent, keep in mind: The Patriots also drafted Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace and Julian Edelman in the 2009 draft. Though Chung and Vollmer are the only two surefire starters from that group, all are still with the team.

Butler is the sixth former Patriot claimed off waivers by at least one team since Saturday.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.