The NFL offseason is finally in full swing. Not only did Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline live up to the hype, but the announcement of the 2021 salary cap figure ($182.5 million) confirmed that a plethora of veterans will be on the chopping block in the coming days.
As expected, that news was met with several players being released, which opens the door for teams with favorable cap situations to swoop in and capitalize. Speaking of which, the Indianapolis Colts and their projected $50 million fall right under that category and they might just be able to steal from a division rival if they play their cards right.
Per ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler, the Tennessee Titans released cornerback Malcolm Butler in a money-saving move as they’re right above the league average with $14.3 million in cap room. For a team with a slew of defensive holes that need filling, this move makes sense for the Titans.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, the Colts should be licking their chops at the prospect of landing a viable replacement for Xavier Rhodes, who’s widely expected to leave in free agency, at a potential discount.
The Colts should look to steal Malcolm Butler in free agency after he was released.
Per the latest buzz, the Colts aren’t expected to sign any of their own free agents before the legal tampering period gets underway next week, meaning that Rhodes will be free to negotiate a deal with another team.
When you take his resurgent 2021 campaign into account — he generated a 77.5 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus after logging 42 tackles, 12 passes defended and two interceptions — chances are the former first-round pick has a bigger market than many would expect.
As much as the Colts need a true No. 1 corner, we’d like to think they wouldn’t be willing to offer Rhodes that kind of money, which makes Butler a realistic option. The 31-year-old vet didn’t garner nearly as much respect as he deserved playing on a Titans defense that couldn’t stop a nosebleed last season, but he enjoyed his most prolific year since he signed with them.
In 16 games, Butler compiled 100 tackles (!), 14 passes defended and four interceptions, all the while conceding just a 62.9% completion percentage despite being the most targeted cornerback in the league. For context, opposing quarterbacks threw his direction 116 times last year.
Colts GM Chris Ballard is always looking for ways to beat the system, and signing Butler might give him the most bang for his buck when you take a look at the other CB options at his disposal — like Stephon Gilmore (trade), Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, etc. — this offseason.
Throw in the fact that Ballard and the Colts, if they pulled it off, would be able to rub Tennessee’s nose in it, and we really don’t see a potential pitfall in signing Butler if the price is right.