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Butler thanks Titans, fans as he prepares for next move

Malcolm Butler officially bid farewell to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, one day after the team released him in a move to clear salary cap space.

In a brief statement posted to Facebook, the Vicksburg native thanked the team and its fans for three seasons together and said he plans to continue his career with another team.

“I want to thank the Tennessee Titans, Ms. Adams, John Robinson, Coach (Mike) Vrabel and the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity after I left the New England Patriots in free agency in 2018,” Butler said in the statement. “I also want to thank the Tennessee Titan fans who supported me from the beginning, and through my return from my injury last year to have my best season as a Titan this year. After leading the team in interceptions and pass break ups, I still feel I have a lot of gas left in the tank, and look forward to helping another team make it to the Super Bowl.”

Butler, who played at Vicksburg High, Hinds Community College and finally West Alabama, came into the NFL in 2014 as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots. He capped his rookie season with an interception at the goal line in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX that sealed New England’s 28-24 victory over Seattle.

Butler was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015, helped the Patriots win another Super Bowl in 2016, and was their starting left cornerback in 2017 when they got to yet another Super Bowl.

Butler’s tenure in New England ended in bizarre fashion, however. He was benched for Super Bowl LII — a 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles — for reasons that were never fully revealed by the team. He signed a five-year, $61.25 million contract with the Titans as a free agent that offseason.

Butler had an up-and-down first season in Tennessee and then missed the last seven games of the 2019 season with a broken arm. He bounced back to have one of his best seasons as a pro in 2020.

Butler started all 16 games for the Titans in 2020 as they finished 11-5 and won the AFC South championship. He ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in interceptions (4) and passes defended (14), and led all cornerbacks with a career-high 100 tackles.

Butler has 17 career interceptions.

Unfortunately for Butler, he fell victim to the business side of the NFL. Butler had the Titans’ third-highest salary cap hit for 2021 at $14.2 million, and by releasing him the team created more than $10 million in cap space.

Butler wound up earning about $36.5 million of the $61.25 million from the contract he signed with the Titans, according to spotrac.com. Butler’s agent Derek Simpson first told ESPN on Tuesday that Butler had been released, and the team officially announced the move Wednesday afternoon.

The NFL free agency period begins March 17 at 4 p.m. EST. Butler, who celebrated his 31st birthday on March 2, did not give any indication of where he might sign in his Facebook post, but did make it clear his career is far from over.

“After going to three Super Bowls in my first four years in the league I know what it’s like to play at a high level and help a team win it all,” Butler said in his Facebook statement. “I am blessed and grateful to continue playing the game I love. The entire world has been affected by COVID-19, and I know this is a business, and the NFL has also been affected as well. I will continue to give 100 percent on and off the field wherever I play next year.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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