A Malcolm Butler and Dean Pees reunion would instantly transform the Falcons cornerback group

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According to Ian Rapoport, a familiar face to Arthur Smith and Dean Pees has hit the free agency market as the Titans have informed Malcolm Butler he’s been released.

Butler has been the best cornerback in Tennessee for the past two years, but the move saves the Titans over $10 million against the cap — another talented player released, who won’t be the last because of the shrinking salary cap. Letting go of the former West Alabama Tiger shows how much belief in Adoree Jackson and Kristian Fulton the Titans have, but no question was Butler the best player at the position. Tennessee, like many others, just can’t afford to pay his $14.5 million salary this year.

Last season, Butler ranked first in the league in solo tackles (89 among cornerbacks) and tied for third in interceptions (four), according to PFF. He was the highest-graded cornerback in the league over the last five weeks with an 83.7 rating, but the production we are interested in is from 2018 and 2019 when Butler played in Dean Pees’ defense while he was the defensive coordinator for the Titans.

A staple of Pees’ scheme is forcing the offensive line and quarterback to account for everyone as a blitzer. He wants the offense to believe a corner, safety, or linebacker could all come after the quarterback, and Butler is excellent as a pass-rusher, run-defender, and in coverage. Excelling in man-coverage, he will be able to impart wisdom on AJ Terrell as a 32-year-old veteran succeeding with two different franchises.

The name of the game for the Falcons this offseason — and potentially the next one too — will be value, which doesn’t necessarily mean being cheap. What is does entail is getting more bang for your buck. A three-year deal that is backloaded seems the most likely avenue to court Butler to Atlanta, and the right men — Arthur Smith and Dean Pees — are in a position to make a decision that could be the biggest of the offseason.

If Butler is commanding #1 CB money, I doubt Fontenot even flinches at the idea. With Xavier Rhodes, William Jackson, Shaquille Griffin, Patrick Peterson, and A.J. Bouye on the market, Butler won’t be in as high of demand as he was in 2018 when he signed with the Titans. Still, his veteran leadership would be a tremendous addition to a young secondary in Atlanta.

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Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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