New Arizona Cardinals corner an upgrade over Patrick Peterson

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Malcolm Butler
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Malcolm Butler /

The Arizona Cardinals signed cornerback Malcolm Butler to a one-year deal for up to $6 million. Signing Butler comes just one week after longtime corner Patrick Peterson left the desert to sign with the Minnesota Vikings.

For the Cardinals, swapping out Peterson and replacing him with Butler couldn’t have worked better in their favor. And as much of a fan favorite that Peterson was, it became apparent in 2019 that his skills were diminishing. Come 2020, you saw a corner in his 10th season making nothing more than a few splash plays. And the numbers back that up.

In 2020, Butler recorded 4 interceptions for 111 return yards including a 68-yard runback, and 14 passes defended. But his physicality makes him even more of a valuable asset. He amassed a career-high 100 tackles, including 86 solo tackles.

His advanced stats were impeccable. While he allowed a 63 percent completion percentage, it was his lowest since 2017. He also allowed just 6.9 yards per target, 10.9 yards per completion, and just an 83.2 passer rating when targeted. Opponents tried to pick on him often in 2020, with 127 targets thrown his way. All numbers are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Butler’s 4 interceptions tied him at third in the NFL in 2020, and while he ranked first in receptions allowed, he was also first in targets. However, Butler didn’t get much help, playing for a Tennessee Titans defense that ranked 20th or worse in just about every statistical category.

His performance gave him a 71.6 grade per Pro Football Focus. Placing him among the upper echelon of NFL corners.

On the other end of the spectrum, Peterson had 3 picks for 7 yards, and 8 passes defended. he recorded 61 tackles but allowed a staggering 67.1 completion percentage. He also allowed 8.4 yards per target and 12.5 yards per catch. Over the past 2 seasons, he had allowed a 99.2 and 98.2 quarterback rating, respectively.

This isn’t a knock on Peterson, who only dealt with 79 targets over 53 catches allowed in 2020, substantially fewer than Butler. However, per Pro Football Focus, Peterson had a low grade of just 55.2, which ranked 83rd out of 121 qualifying corners.

It’s just that at this point in their respective careers, Butler serves as a better option than Peterson. And the numbers don’t lie.

Peterson was a stellar corner during his first 8 seasons in Glendale. But if the past two seasons provide any indication, it’s that he’s nearing the end of a storied career in Minnesota. As for Butler, he’ll be part of a better defense in 2021, as the Cardinals received a major upgrade with the J.J. Watt signing.

Butler has become yet another experienced player added to a Cardinals team that has valued it over youth. He turned 31 on March 2nd and will enter his eighth season.