Cornerback Malcolm Butler’s sudden retirement coming on the last day of August threw the Arizona Cardinals a curveball that most outside the organization didn’t realize.
He’s officially on the reserve/retired list, but that doesn’t mean the door is completely slammed shut on a possible return.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was asked Thursday if he could see Butler back with the Cardinals.
“I’m not sure,” Joseph said. “We’ll see.”
While the exact reason behind Butler’s decision is still not clear, Joseph did provide more information Thursday, putting aside the thought the cornerback’s departure might be performance-related.
“No, he was playing fine, he was improving every day and he was gonna be a big part of what we did this year,” Joseph said.
“Last week we talked a little bit, he’s taking care of some personal stuff and that’s important,” Joseph added. “Obviously, football is a big part of his life but his life’s more important than football.”
Butler was signed this offseason to lead a new-look cornerbacks room alongside Byron Murphy and Robert Alford.
Now, with him on the retired list, that leaves rookie Marco Wilson the most likely candidate to pick up the pieces. Arizona also has Luq Barcoo and Tay Gowan at its disposal.
“We have three or four guys that we like. Obviously, Murph is one of those guys. And Robert, after being on [the COVID-19 list] for a week, he looks good. Marco’s, obviously, been a good surprise for us, being a young player and later-round pick.
“So, so far so good. We feel good about those three guys and we picked up Barcoo from Jacksonville. He’s a young corner who’s got production in college, fits the profile, so we feel good about him also.”
Despite Joseph’s good feels about the cornerback room, there’s still a handful of questions as the Cardinals get closer to their Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
Talk about a test for the secondary as a whole, with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown leading the Titans’ aerial attack. Brown is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, while Jones has posted at least 1,000 yards in all but three seasons over the course of 10 years.
“It could be anyone out there on the corner,” Joseph said. “You gotta have a plan to contain those guys, so not just for Marco but for all of our corners.
“No one can cover those guys one-on-one for an entire game. That’s what having a plan, regardless of who the corner’s gonna be, it’s gonna be my job.”