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Newly released CB Malcolm Butler could be on Falcons’ radar

Here might be a more familiar free agent that could sign in Atlanta.

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Chicago Bears v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There’s no question that the Atlanta Falcons need help in the secondary, particularly now that there is only one safety on the roster. The cornerback group has a bit more going for it with 2020 first-round pick A.J. Terrell, improving 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver and potential-laden 2019 fourth-round pick Kendell Sheffield in-house already, but none of those players are proven high-end starters in this league.

Terrell cemented himself as the team’s top corner going ahead, Oliver performed admirably in the slot last season after struggling to play on the outside and Sheffield has flashed some inspired play at times between his youthful struggles, so all three should have roles. Only Terrell is guaranteed a starting one.

Could a former Titans cornerback be the key to unlocking what might be a halfway decent corner group under Dean Pees? NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport shared that the Tennessee Titans have released former Patriots corner Malcolm Butler from his contract.

Butler was, of course, the undrafted sensation whose game-winning interception at the last second gave the Tom Brady Patriots a Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.

He had a few really sound years with New England before cashing in with Tennessee in 2018. His play in Tennessee has been good if not elite, as he missed half of the 2019 season with an injury and posted his highest-ever post-New England PFF score in 2020 with the team (71.6), a score that came with four interceptions. He just turned 31, too, and is in the back half of his career.

Would the Falcons get him in to start next to Terrell? For the right price, it’d put him with his defensive coordinator for two seasons in Pees and in a scheme he’d have instant familiarity with, an added boost. The price is really the only question, because the ties to Pees make this a strong-seeming possibility.

The cornerback class in this year’s free agency has some big names in tow like Patrick Peterson, A.J. Bouye, Xavier Rhodes, William Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie and Shaquill Griffin, among others, so Butler won’t necessarily be quite as in demand as he was in 2018 when he scored a major deal with the Titans. If the Falcons could sign him to a three-year deal and backload the contract, Butler might wind up being one of the more likely familiar names out there who would make sense for this new regime.

We’re very early in the process and aren’t sure how this new front office feels about Darqueze Dennard, who did just fine for Atlanta last season when healthy and could likely re-sign at an affordable rate. They most likely have their eyes on someone in the draft, too. Still, Butler has the connections that make you wonder and he’d probably not be the most pricey free agent out there if the team wants to get someone to start opposite Terrell for a year or two.

We’ll monitor Butler’s situation and admit we’re kind of intrigued by the possibility of adding the former Super Bowl MVP to Atlanta’s secondary.