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Free Agent Overview: Butler Flashed Big-Play Ability In 2nd Year With Cowboys

With the NFL offseason now officially underway, it's never too early to start focusing on the next order of business, which is free agency. The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents who can sign with other teams starting on March 9, unless they strike a new deal with the Cowboys before then.

Over the next two weeks, staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.

Today, we'll continue the series with wide receiver Brice Butler.

What's The Deal: In September 2015, Butler arrived in a trade with the Oakland Raiders after Dez Bryant broke his foot in the season opener. A hamstring injury limited Butler to seven games that season. He has appeared in 23 regular-season games over the last two seasons, mostly as a reserve wideout, playing 688 of a possible 2079 offensive snaps (33.1 percent). He has 28 catches as a Cowboy for 477 yards and three touchdowns.                            

Cowboys Highlight: The Cowboys initially traded for Butler for receiver depth while Bryant was sidelined in 2015. In 2016, with a full offseason to absorb the offensive system, Butler stepped up in three starts for an injured Bryant. Two of his three touchdowns came in starts against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers, including a terrific 20-yard back-shoulder catch from Dak Prescott that gave Dallas a 17-6 lead just before halftime in an impressive road win at Lambeau Field.

Argument To Keep: A 6-foot-3, Butler's a tall receiving target who has shown the ability to separate from defenders, like his 41-yard catch on a go-route that led to a touchdown in a 27-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens this past season. There are some missed opportunities in the passing game and penalties he would like back, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for leaving the huddle in the Cowboys' divisional-round loss to the Green Bay Packers. But at 27 years old, he could be entering the prime of his career as a talented downfield option.

Argument To Let Go: At the Senior Bowl in January, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters the team would like to bring back Butler and starting receiver Terrance Williams, both of whom are set to be unrestricted free agents. Whether that's possible might depend on the free agent market and how much cap space the team has to work with.

Bryan Broaddus' Scout's Take: In scouting you're always taught to avoid the flash player, and Brice Butler is that guy to me. Snaps where you see the brilliance but not consistent enough. Has the physical traits to be an outstanding receiver in this league but struggles to put it all together. For every good play there is one that makes you shake your head in disbelief. Playing speed and vertical separation are outstanding but football intelligence is not. For a tall player, shows body control and balance. Finds ways to work in tight spaces, especially in the red zone. Outstanding catches against the 49ers, Packers and Lions where he had to contort his body to make the play. Can be hit and miss with his hands. Has dropped some quality throws that he should have come up with. Has hurt the team with some costly penalties at the worst times in games. Plays like he's not thinking. Always expected more and for various reasons never fully lived up to those expectations.

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