Cornerback Malcolm Butler on Thursday agreed to sign with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal, joining a revamped cornerback room heading into 2021.
Butler had 86 tackles and four interceptions with 14 passes defensed for the Tennessee Titans in 2020.
Tennessee released Butler this offseason with his contract set to pay out $14.2 million in 2021. He was considered one of the top corners on the market. Butler signed a five-year, $61.3 million deal with the Titans in 2018.
Arizona entered the offseason with the position group atop the priority list with two of its top three cornerbacks last year, Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick, entering free agency.
Peterson agreed to join the Minnesota Vikings hours after the new league year began. His deal is reportedly for one year and can pay out $10 million.
Kirkpatrick remains a free agent.
That left third-year pro Byron Murphy as the lone returning cornerback who played significantly last year.
Murphy recorded 51 tackles with eight passes defensed and two sacks in 2020 while playing most prominently in the slot. That’s where the Cardinals have said they want to stick the 2019 second-round pick, meaning they could be looking at adding two starters on the outside before 2021.
Veteran cornerback Robert Alford could also have a chance to win one of those jobs.
Before free agency began, Arizona released Alford to gain $7.5 million in cap space and then re-signed him. Alford, a starter for the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, has not played for the Cardinals after suffering season-ending injuries in each of the past two training camps.
His return on a smaller contract allows him a chance to finally take the field for a team that in 2019 gave him a three-year, $22.5 million deal with $13.5 million guaranteed.
Alford and Murphy are joined in the current cornerback room by second-year undrafted pro Jace Whittaker and Picasso Nelson, who are on future contracts.
Whittaker, who played collegiately for the Arizona Wildcats, was pressed into duty last year and registered four tackles in four games.
Nelson, who went undrafted out of Southern Mississippi in 2019, has not made an appearance in an NFL game.