By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Malcolm Butler is a near-guarantee to leave the Patriots via free agency this offseason. But he might not have to go too far.

According to Calvin Watkins of New York Newsday, the soon-to-be-free-agent cornerback is going to get some interest from the New York Jets.

Of course, such a signing remains many steps away. But if Butler were to sign with the Jets, it would create a fascinating dynamic in the AFC East, with Butler getting the chance to play against Bill Belichick’s team twice every year.

Earlier in the offseason, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News said that the Jets will look to sign two starting cornerbacks this season.

“What better way for Butler to exact revenge for his inexplicable Super Bowl benching than by sticking it to Bill Belichick twice a year as a member of the team that the Hoodie despises?”

That was conjecture on Mehta’s part, but Watkins’ report seems to add some weight to the Jets’ interest.

Butler, who will turn 28 this week, is in line to make his first big-money contract, after playing four seasons with New England. He made the Super Bowl-winning interception against the Seahawks in 2014, and he spent the following two seasons establishing himself as a top corner in the league. He took a step backward in 2017, though, and he most recently was forced by Belichick to watch from the sidelines as his teammates were shredded by Nick Foles and the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

Butler did record two interceptions and 12 pass defenses this season, after picking off four passes and defending 16 passes during the 2016 season.

Butler has been a part of two memorable plays in the end zone of MetLife Stadium — one against the Jets, and one against the Giants. This past season, he forced the infamous fumble by Austin Seferian-Jenkins, which resulted in a touchback that took away a scoring chance for the Jets and gave the football to the Patriots. A year prior against the Giants, Odell Beckham briefly caught a go-ahead touchdown late against the Patriots before Butler knocked the ball free on a pass that was ruled incomplete on replay. Three of Butler’s eight career interceptions have come against the Jets, as well.


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