The biggest play of Malcolm Butler’s NFL career happened in Arizona. His infamous interception of Russell Wilson at the one-yard line to clinch a title for the New England Patriots will live in Super Bowl lore and be ran on many highlight packages for years.
Now Butler will be strapping on the pads every Sunday at the same venue where he made the thrilling pick. The newly acquired cornerback was officially introduced with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday morning after he agreed to terms on a one-year deal just last week.
Now back in the same place where he made his historic play, Butler is ready to get to work with an up and coming Cardinals secondary.
“It was an easy decision. The Cardinals pursued me and I felt like it was a perfect fit,” said Butler of his signing with the Bird Gang. “You’ve got some good players on this team. You’ve got Budda Baker, Hopkins, Murray, Fitzgerald, and you can go on and on. I got a good taste of Arizona when I was here during Super Bowl 49 and I just felt like it was a perfect fit for me. I love the color red and I loved the moves that the Cardinals did this year.”
A seven-year veteran, Butler has continued his steady progress as a player. Last year with the Tennessee Titans at the age of 30, Butler tied his career-high in interceptions with four, while starting every game in the Tennessee secondary.
There are legitimate question marks around the Cardinals offseason acquisitions, including the age and how much gas certain players like Butler, AJ Green and JJ Watt have left in the tank. However, for Butler, who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, there’s reason for optimism with this group.
“We can make a push. Guys get older and things like that, but if you’re doing the right things with your body and staying focused and you’re committed to the game and one goal, if everyone has that same mindset, that’s what we’re going to do,” Butler said. “I’ll ball harder this year. I had my best year at the age of 30. Age ain’t nothing but a number over here.”
Butler’s sentiments are backed up by the analytics, too. Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo joined the Brad Cesmat Show and gave his thoughts on the newest Cardinal and how he can fit into the Arizona defense.
Although Patrick Peterson was a staple in the Red Bird secondary for years, Palazzolo explained how Butler can slot in nicely over the former Cardinal who is now with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I look at the Tennessee Titans losing two top starting cornerbacks and I was like, man, that’s going to hurt them not having Malcolm Butler,” Palazzolo said. “Last year he bounced back and was one of our highest-rated corners and was 14th in all of the league last year. I think Butler is a guy that can give up some yards but is a tight, man coverage type of player that makes plays on the ball…I like Malcolm Butler and I look at Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick, that was a weakness last year for the Cardinals at corner. I think Butler should be an upgrade.”
Butler will step into a defense that features the likes of Watt, Budda Baker, Chandler Jones and Byron Murphy. Butler played with Jones in New England, and he’ll look to add a veteran perspective and leadership to many of the young talent on the back end.
With past tutelage from the likes of Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel and Brian Flores, Butler has been around many strong defensive minds. He’ll look to pass that down, but not before earning the trust and respect of his teammates through showcasing his craft and his day-to-day operations.
“I’m the type of leader that wants to lead physically and not verbally all the time,” Butler said. “You can’t lead a group or anybody if you’re just always talking. You got to be about that action and go out there and put the work in on and off the field. I’m a leader by working hard and putting the extra work on the field and putting extra time in the film room…That’s the kind of guy that I think I am.”