Texans' DeAndre Hopkins is recruiting Patriots' Malcolm Butler via social media

Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, and given how the Super Bowl played out (Butler was shockingly benched just before kickoff and the Patriots still haven't explained why), he's not expected to return to New England. Now, Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is working on bringing Butler to Houston. 

In the days following Super Bowl LII, which Butler watched from the sidelines as the Patriots' defense surrendered 41 points to the Eagles, Hopkins used both Instagram and Twitter to court Butler. First, he told Butler on Twitter that there's a spot for him in Houston.

And then he Instagrammed a Photoshopped image of Butler wearing a Texans uniform.

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A post shared by @ deandrehopkins on

This isn't just a wild fantasy. Houston should be regarded as a possible landing spot for a couple of reasons. 

For one, the Texans lost A.J. Bouye in free agency a year ago, and then their defense proceeded to allow the ninth-most passing yards per game. Butler isn't a superstar, but he's posted solid numbers ever since he loudly announced his arrival by picking off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line to preserve the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XLIX. In 2016, Butler picked off four passes and allowed a 78.2 passer rating in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

This past season, which Butler described as "s----y," his numbers slipped (two interceptions and a 96.6 passer rating in coverage). Still, even at his worse, Butler is a starting-caliber, reliable cornerback with clear upside.

That's what made his benching in the Super Bowl so surprising. After the game, Butler refuted reports that he broke team rules in the lead up to the game and his statement generated support from his teammates, but an actual explanation from Bill Belichick still hasn't emerged. We shouldn't expect to get one, knowing how the Patriots operate. Regardless of the reason, one game probably shouldn't impact his free agency.

Butler, 27, hasn't had a chance to earn good NFL money yet in his career so he will likely be looking to cash in for the first time in his career. Houston has the cap space to pay Butler. According to Spotrac, the Texans rank sixth in available cap space.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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