A Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver many believed was on his way out of Dallas has turned heads in the offseason and could very well win himself a roster spot.
Of the nine selections the Dallas Cowboys had in the 2017 NFL Draft, only two were spent on the offensive side of the ball. Both of those players, North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer and Ohio State’s Noah Brown, were wide receivers.
The fact that both of the Cowboys’ offensive rookies are wide outs should be very telling of how the team views their current receiver corps. Last season, America’s Team kept only five receivers on their active roster. Those players included Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Lucky Whitehead and Brice Butler.
All five of those receivers are still on the roster, as two of them were re-signed as free agents this offseason. Williams was signed to a very team-friendly four-year, $17 million deal in March. And Butler was inked to a one-year, $1.1 million contract to stay in Dallas.
Despite the re-signing of Butler, many believe the 27-year old could have outstayed his welcome in Big D. Traded for back in September of 2015, the former Oakland Raider was initially acquired to help fill-in for a injured Bryant. But his own injuries and inconsistent play have plagued the 2013 seventh round selection out of San Diego State.
Last season, Butler’s play was a complete rollercoaster ride. Every spectacular catch seemed to be followed up by a boneheaded penalty or dropped pass. With wide receiver Andy Jones developing on the practice squad and both Switzer and Brown acquired via the draft, Butler and Whitehead were both considered probably roster bubble candidates this year.
But according to one Cowboys insider, Butler has actually turned in an impressive offseason. If his level of play continues it’s upward trajectory, Dallas may be forced to keep the speedy receiver on their active roster.
"“Butler’s teammates will tell you he’s easily one of the fastest players on the team, but he’s also been one of the more consistent receivers this offseason, in my opinion,” responded DallasCowboys.com’s Rob Phillips to a recent mailbag question. “When the Cowboys drafted Noah Brown, some people instantly thought Butler’s roster spot could be in jeopardy. But here’s the thing: if Dez Bryant were to miss any time, it’s nice to have Butler’s experience as an outside receiver who has started games in this league.”"
Butler’s physical benefits are obvious. He’s a 6-foot-3, 220 pound receiver who runs 4.37 forty. Butler has the attributes to be the speedster the Cowboys so desperately need to take the top off of opposing defenses. But his inconsistent play and boneheaded mistakes have made him more of a liability than the reliable target Dallas needs at his position.
Last season, Butler caught just 16 of his 32 targets for 219 yards and three touchdowns. His 50% catch percentage was the worst among all of Dallas’ receivers in 2016. But Butler’s unusual combination of size and speed means this Cowboys coaching staff will give him every opportunity to succeed in Dallas.
And who knows? Maybe Brice Butler will surprise everyone in 2017.