Malcolm Butler's lucrative, five-year contract didn't make it past Year 3.
The Titans have informed Butler they have released him, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.
Butler arrived in Tennessee on a lavish contract worth $61.25 million that included $24 million guaranteed in 2018. It was a deal that made sense; After all, Butler had started all but one regular season game in his previous three campaigns, and had ascended to a prominent role opposite Stephon Gilmore in New England. His strange Super Bowl benching was merely an afterthought to Tennessee, which was landing a premier free-agent cornerback in the prime of his career.
Butler was a solid defender for the majority of his time in Tennessee, but not so effective that he wasn't expendable. His best season, in fact, was his most recent according to Pro Football Focus, which gave him his best coverage grade (75.8) since 2016 and his second-best defensive grade of his career (74.5). But as our own Gregg Rosenthal wrote in February, while Butler was clearly Tennessee's best corner at a position of need going into 2021, he's an even better option for release and salary cap savings.
Butler's release clears $10 million in space for the Titans, who are under the cap but very much up against it if they have any intentions of adding players elsewhere. Tennessee could very well take that $10 million saved and spread it over two or even three players that would strengthen the defense as a whole more than Butler's presence would keep the Titans competitive.
There's a cost for everything -- especially with the reduced cap -- and in this instance, it's Butler's time in Tennessee. He'll hit the market as the No. 47 free agent on Rosenthal's Top 101, and he'll add a big name to a thin free-agent group at the position.