On Tuesday, it was reported that the Tennessee Titans would be parting ways with one of their top cornerbacks. On Wednesday, Malcolm Butler confirmed the news. The veteran defensive back had two years remaining on his contract, but with many teams looking to save money, Butler became a cap casualty for the Titans. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, cutting Butler saves Tennessee more than $10 million against the cap.
In addition to Butler, the Titans released starting safety Kenny Vaccaro as another cap casualty, who had a $6.9 million cap hit. After spending his first five NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Vaccaro signed a one-year deal with the Titans in 2018. During that first season, he recorded 58 combined tackles, two sacks, four passes defensed and one interception in 13 games played, and earned a four-year extension. Vaccaro continued to be a tackling machine, recording 84 in 2019 and 83 in 2020, but was identified as a cap casualty candidate by the organization due to the lowering cap number.
Butler took to Twitter to thank the Titans organization for giving him an opportunity to play in Nashville and announce to the rest of the league that he still has some gas left in the tank.
"I want to thank the Tennessee Titans, Ms. Adams, Jon Robinson, Coach Vrabel and the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity after I left the New England Patriots in free agency in 2018. 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.
"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. 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."
Butler was of course the hero of Super Bowl XLIX for the New England Patriots, as he picked off Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. After four seasons with New England and an awkward benching in Super Bowl LII, Butler signed a five-year deal with the Titans. His time in Tennessee was full of ups and downs, as he struggled in the opening half of his first year with the Titans in 2018, and then broke his wrist in 2019. Butler did end up becoming the cornerback the Titans were hoping for in 2020, as he recorded a career-high 100 combined tackles, 14 passes defensed and four interceptions in 16 games played. Butler turned 31 years old earlier this month, but he will receive some attention on the open market -- especially considering the great season he just had with Tennessee.
Cutting both were tough decisions, not just because of the solid performances they had in 2020, but because the secondary is one of Tennessee's greatest needs this offseason. The Titans defense ranked fifth-worst in the league when it came to total yards allowed per game this past season, and fourth-worst in passing yards allowed per game. The Titans own the No. 22 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is a spot many mock drafts dedicated to a pass-rusher. Now, the Titans could be looking for some help in the secondary -- more specifically a cornerback -- with their first pick.