After spending the last few years with the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver Brice Butler was ready to move on this offseason as he fully intended on testing NFL free agency. Although Butler expressed a desire to return to Dallas if he was given a starting role, a future with the Cowboys just wasn’t a viable option after the offers started coming in for the 28-year-old.
Ultimately, Butler found the ideal situation with the Arizona Cardinals. The team was looking to bring in another solid option downfield alongside Larry Fitzgerald, and they found their man in this hungry wideout determined to prove himself. Butler has the opportunity to flourish in Arizona while taking the pressure off the future Hall of Famer.
Following the news surfacing of Butler’s deal with the Cardinals, he spoke with ClutchPoints at length about a number of different topics. Butler opened up about the free agency process, leaving Dallas, his relationship with Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott, teaming up with Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson as well as the new-look NFC West.
What was the NFL free agency process like for you?
Brice Butler: It was slow in the beginning. I had to seek new representation. I let an agent go that was representing me on my behalf. As soon as I hired the other guys, everything opened up. There were like five or six teams that had interest and wanted to have me out on visits, so it kind of went quick. All of that happened the week the owners were in Orlando.
It was one of those things that me and my agent, between those teams that I had, looked at the best opportunity for me on the roster and we went from there.
What teams were you considering when you made your decision?
BB: It was the Cardinals. Obviously, Dallas. Chicago, Jacksonville, and Seattle. Those are all the teams that had a lot of interest and had me on the schedule to come to take visits, but between all those teams, we knew that Arizona was the best place for an opportunity to be on the field more. And so, that was the first place that I had my visit scheduled. We got here, made a deal and got it rolling.
How come things didn’t work out with the Cowboys? Lack of interest on their end or not the role what you wanted?
BB: They spoke to my representation, the first guy that represented me. They were like, ‘we’ll bring him back,’ or whatever, on the same deal that we brought him back for last year. We had that on the table early. We didn’t really speak to them much. I talked to coach Sanjay [Lal] and all them a little bit.
Spoke to Dak [Prescott]. Dak told me things that they wanted to do over there. I have a great relationship with all those guys and trusted Dak, so he was keeping me in the loop with everything, but for me, man, like I said on TV in January, I want to go somewhere where I have the opportunity to be on the field more. All that was transpiring with what Dallas was doing, it just didn’t look like a place where I would have wanted to go back, especially when you have Deonte Thompson now.
You’ve got Allen Hurns now. You got Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, and then I don’t know what they’re going to do with Dez [Bryant]. All those dudes are getting paid more than me, so those are the guys that would be on the field. My thing was, I don’t even want to chance or risk that, being the same situation I was in before.
What was your relationship like with Dez Bryant?
BB: It was great. I don’t know what y’all wrote about it, but a lot of people tried to take what I said on Undisputed with those guys and the Colin Cowherd show or whatever in January as me talking bad about him. And really, I never said anything negative about him. I have shown him love. I never said anything about him as a player or his game was diminishing or anything.
Me and Dez are still tight. We talked about that after it happened. He reiterated to me multiple times, ‘I’m not worried about what these media people are talking about. I know how it goes with the media or whatever. Me and you are still in good standing’ or whatever, which I expected. We’re supposed to be working out together this summer. We talked about that. I mean, me and Dez’s relationship is just as good as anybody else’s on the team.
Say Dez does get cut by the Cowboys. Are you going to lobby for him to come to the Cardinals?
BB: Whatever we need to help the team, but look, I’m trying to ball out. Dez is my guy, but I don’t want him on my team making it harder for me for me to get where I need to go. You know what I’m saying?
What did you learn from your time in Dallas?
BB: My time in Dallas was good. It was great. It is very hardnosed. Blue chip-type of guys there that are nasty. Gritty. Physical. Bring their lunch pail to work every day and go to work at it. Coach Garrett preached that all the time. Just continuing to challenge yourself to get better every day and all those things I mentioned helped me and developed me into the player I am now.
I loved the three years that I had with the Dallas Cowboys. I told coach Garrett that in my exit meeting that I appreciate every year I’ve been here with you guys because you guys have gotten me better. You guys made me challenge myself to get better, and so, all those things I mentioned I feel like I added more of those attributes to myself moving forward. I loved the last few years I had there.
What convinced you to sign with the Cardinals this offseason?
BB: The opportunity. It looks like I have a legitimate shot to compete for a starting role here. Obviously, it is not going to be given, but there’s not that much depth at receiver.
With all the things that I was looking at, I was like, Arizona is the best spot. It had nothing to do with money. Obviously, I didn’t get paid that much. I’m essentially getting the same deal I had last year with the Cowboys, so it’s not like I got a pay raise or anything. I’ve seen a lot of people say that I was trying to make wide receiver-one money and I don’t ever remember saying that because I’m not an idiot. I know a guy that catches 15 balls doesn’t get paid $10 million a year. I’m not stupid.
Sometimes when I see that I think, ‘people must think I’m an idiot.’ Just to answer your question, it was an opportunity. To go from a great receiver, Dez Bryant, to another great receiver, you could say in our generation, like the Jerry Rice of our generation, which is Larry Fitzgerald. I’m excited about it.
Are you looking forward to playing alongside future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald?
BB: Yeah. Larry has done it every year. Even when he’s gotten older, he still manages to catch 100 balls and be productive. Still strive to be an excellent receiver on the field, so I’m going to love to be able to ask him how he prepares. How he takes care of his body. What kind of food he eats. All that type of stuff.
We started already. I’ve got two days with him already. Seeing him do some things. Yeah, I’m excited to be able to work with him.
The NFC West is only getting better with the Los Angeles Rams making all sorts of moves and the San Francisco 49ers getting Jimmy Garoppolo. How do feel about the Cardinals’ chances to compete within the division?
BB: I feel good, man. Obviously, everything right now on paper. Most teams haven’t even started OTAs and their offseason programs yet, so all the preseason power rankings and all that doesn’t matter. You know how it is, man. You’ve been covering the NFL for a while. A lot of stuff can happen and transpire over the course of one season and year to the next.
Arizona had one of the top defenses in the league last year. Top five, I think. So the defense is stout. I know Tyrann Mathieu went to Houston [Texans], but I’m pretty sure we picked some DBs or we’re going to get some more DBs or whatever to help fill in that role. Obviously, I’m an offensive guy, so I don’t really know.
We got Sam Bradford, which is a top quarterback in the league. He out there slinging it with the best of them. The plan is to have him out there for all 16 games and the postseason as well. As far as the receivers are concerned, we’ve got a walking Hall of Famer. I do what I expect what I’m going to do. I’ll be making some big plays for the squad as well. We’ve got David Johnson. Great running back. One of the top backs in the league.
We got guys, man. Like I said, obviously, everything is on paper. Too early to tell, but Cardinals will come ready to go.
Would you say David Johnson is the best running back in the NFL today? If not, where would you rank him?
BB: I’m not ranking. I just know he’s a great NFL running back…David is a great running back, and I’m excited to be able to play with him. Ezekiel [Elliott] is a great running back as well. I know Zeke more than I know David right now, obviously. He’s been my teammate the last two years. I’ve been blessed to be able to play with some great running backs in the last few years.
With a player with a history at USC, what are your thoughts on Sam Darnold? Do you think he should go No. 1 in the 2018 NFL Draft? Are you paying any attention to the college players coming in?
BB: Not really. I don’t know. I’ve seen Sam play. They came to AT&T Stadium a few times and every time they came I watched. Really good quarterback, man. You know how the draft goes, you never know what’s going to happen. Obviously, because I went to USC I would love to see him go at the top of the draft, but really I don’t care where he goes in the draft, I just hope he does well. I hope the best for him when he gets in the league. He’s going to be a first-rounder regardless. If it’s first or fifth or whatever, he’s still going to be a first-rounder, and he’s still going to have an opportunity to go out and compete at the highest level, so I hope for the best for him.
What are your goals for your first season in Arizona?
BB: Get better every day. That’s it. That’s the only thing I got going. Just get better every day.
Is there one thing in particular driving you heading into next season?
BB: For me, it’s just constantly improving. Last offseason, before the 2017 season, I kind of changed my approach and it worked well. No goals. No milestones. Only thing I’m going to control is what I can, and that is getting better every day. Working hard to get smarter. Get more physically fit and more prepared to do my job at the highest level.
All the goals and all the other stuff, I’ve kinda thrown those out because if you don’t hit them when you think you’re supposed to, that’s kind of discouragement. Obviously, I would like to start as a player, and I haven’t really been able to do that yet. After training camps, I would be discouraged playing really well in camp and being told I’m the camp “MVP” or whatever, but my role didn’t change.
I kind of started, last offseason, spending time with certain people. Spending time with people giving me good advice on things like that. I just dropped all that. Now it’s just getting better every day and being better than I was yesterday.
You played with some pretty good quarterbacks in your NFL career thus far. Derek Carr with the Oakland Raiders. Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. What have you learned from each quarterback?
BB: Both of them are young. I played with a lot of young quarterbacks that are great and that are going to be great in the future. Derek is one of my really close friends still to this day. In the summers, I go to the Bay and we workout together. Stuff like that. Now he’s a Pro Bowler every year.
Back then though, it was tough. He was still a good quarterback. I’m not saying anything changed as far as his attributes are concerned, but he was brand new. He was fresh. He was rookie. Everything to him was new, and then our team was not good at all. We were 0-10 to start the season and ended 3-13. I had great times with him. Obviously, he’s been doing very well since I’ve left. He’s matured into that Pro Bowl player. One of the highest-paid players in the league.I caught him in the beginning of all that. I knew he had it all.
Same with Dak. He’s already been a Pro Bowler in his rookie season, which was great. I felt like he had a really good year last year even though people like bashed him. It was weird because his numbers were almost identical to the year before.
I saw something on Colin Cowherd’s show. They did a segment like Dak Prescott’s numbers versus like all the great quarterbacks in the league, and all that type of stuff and Dak was mano a mano or even better than a lot of the guys. I talk to Dak almost every day, even now after I signed or whatever, and I think he’s going to get better because there’s no limit to what he can do. He’s a great quarterback. Great player. Great leader.
He’s obviously continued to mature into that role. The best place to mature, especially at that role in Dallas. Of all the things that happened, that have nothing to do with football are there in that organization. You are either going to die-hard quick, or you are going to mature and become a diamond. I think Dak is definitely on the way to doing that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t touch on?
BB: I’m going to miss Dallas, man. I had a great few years there. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed my time. Who knows, I may end up back there. I love Cowboys Nation. See y’all later, I appreciate everything. But until then, peace!