NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans cut Malcolm Butler on Tuesday, according to ESPN. Doing so saved Tennessee a much-needed $10.2 million against their 2021 salary cap.
Butler signed a five-year, $61,250,000 contract with the Titans in 2018 after spending four seasons with the New England Patriots.
Butler was arguably the Titans best defensive player last season. Many in the building considered the seven-year veteran to be the heart of Tennessee’s team.
What coach Mike Vrabel’s defense loses is a player that tied for the team lead in interceptions in 2020 (4). Butler graded out as one of the Titans best and most consistent corners since arriving in 2018. Over his three seasons in Nashville, Pro Football Focus rated him as the 27th best corner in football (74.2).
Titans pressure applied
Without Butler, Tennessee will turn to Adoreé Jackson and Kristian Fulton as their starting corners.
Desmond King, whom the Titans traded a 2021 sixth round pick for last November, is an unrestricted free agent. King is not expected to be back with the team next year. Tennessee’s defensive struggles are well documented despite a good season from Butler. Vrabel’s defense allowed a historically bad 51.98% conversion rate on third downs and 2.1 passing touchdowns allowed per game (27th).
Butler’s energy and passion for the game gave him the respect of his coaches and teammates. For the Titans cap needs, however, the $14.2 million he could have cost them this season was simply too much to bear.
Expect Tennessee to be in the market for a corner come draft time.
Butler cut means new free agent focus
With the money freed up without Butler and wide receiver Adam Humphries on the books, Tennessee’s free agent pursuits are clear.
GM Jon Robinson also opted not to utilize the team’s franchise or transition tags.
The Titans were not interested in one-year high cost deals. What they are focused on is obtaining a pass rush at all costs this seasons. Lucky for them, there will be options available. Shaq Barrett, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree, Leonard Floyd and Haason Reddick will all be available at outside linebacker.
Defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Carl Lawson are set to hit the market as well.
Tennessee’s path forward is as clear as it has ever been: get younger and cheaper but, most importantly, find guys to pressure the quarterback.
Featured Image: George Walker IV/The Tennessean via USA TODAY Sports.