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Brice Butler Gets Down To Business 

WR Brice Butler during offseason work
WR Brice Butler during offseason work

Many NFL players dislike the business aspect of the profession, preferring to focus on the game while their agent handles the contracts.

Brice Butler enjoys both.

The wide receiver officially became a free agent in March after three seasons with the Cowboys, but the wheels in his head began turning much earlier. As he scanned potential fits across the league, the Cardinals stood out.

“When the Brown brothers left – they’re not brothers, but I call (John and Jaron) the Brown brothers – I told my agent, ‘Hey, Arizona should be a team we’re seeking out,’” Butler said. “During the season I felt like I would have been a good fit if those two guys did leave, and I knew they were in their contract year. I didn’t know the other players that were here, so I was like, ‘If those guys don’t go out and get a big-name free agent, that’s a great place for us to go.’”

General Manager Steve Keim passed on big names, and indeed Butler inked a two-year, $2.6 million deal in April, becoming another option for the No. 2 wide receiver role behind star Larry Fitzgerald. Butler has one of the longest résumés among the candidates, with 73 catches for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in five NFL seasons.

He had 15 catches for 317 yards and three scores a year ago for the Cowboys, averaging a robust 21.1 yards per catch. But an average that high generally means a player isn’t getting the lion’s share of targets, and that was the case as Butler sat behind Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley on the Dallas depth chart.

The pecking order in Arizona is muddled, with Butler competing against the likes of J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams and rookie Christian Kirk for playing time.

“It’s hard to say right now who will be that No. 2,” coach Steve Wilks said during offseason work.

Butler is hoping previous success against the Cardinals will carry over as he joins them. In 2014, Butler hauled in a 55-yard pass against the Cardinals while with the Raiders. Last season he played a pivotal role in the Cowboys’ 28-17 win at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 3, catching two passes for 90 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown to break a fourth quarter tie.

As free agency beckoned, Butler reached out to then-Cardinals safety Tyvon Branch to remind him of that dominance, imploring the team to sign him.

“I’ve been balling against you every year,” Butler told Branch. “Tell them to come holler at me.”

Butler was slowed by an injury when he arrived but returned to the field near the tail-end of offseason work. That mirrored his career to this point – on the periphery in some games and in the middle of the action during others.

Butler, listed at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, has a nice mixture of size and speed but Wilks said consistency is the trait that will help him take the next step to NFL starter.

The chance will be a fair one in training camp, as there is no established hierarchy behind Fitzgerald on the depth chart. The new coaching staff has given everyone a blank slate, and Butler hopes to seize his opportunity after playing second fiddle in Dallas.

“No one wants to be a backup,” Butler said. “Some guys know, ‘OK, I’m not better than the guys in front of me,’ and that’s what you have to accept, but I’ve always been a player where I felt like I could have been on the field more. Especially when I was given opportunities, I made my plays. It just was hard. We had a lot of players in Dallas, and there weren’t enough balls to go around. That was the situation there. I’m a grown man. We have free agency. It came in (1992), I think, so now I had the opportunity to choose what’s best for my family and me, and that’s what I did.”

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