The story surrounding the 49ers’ need for a cornerback took an interesting turn in Sunday night’s Super Bowl.

The Patriots elected to bench Malcolm Butler — the same Malcolm Butler who sealed the Super Bowl win two seasons ago with a brilliant interception of Russell Wilson at the goal line and who led New England defenders with 97 percent of the snaps played this season.

The same Malcolm Butler the Patriots were trying to trade for a first-round pick to New Orleans last offseason and who should be among the most sought-after free agent cornerbacks this spring.

Butler was widely considered one of New England’s best defensive players throughout the year before the Patriots allowed 538 yards and 41 points to backup quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles.

The 49ers, of course, have a glaring need for a starting cornerback opposite promising rookie Ahkello Witherspoon and upwards of $100 million in cap space to play with. It’s likely they address the position with a veteran in free agency and another pick in the NFL draft. Butler should be an intriguing candidate given his scheme versatility, experience and knowledge of a winning culture.

Butler not playing on the game’s biggest stage likely means he’s done in New England. He was clearly emotional beforehand and expressed those feelings to ESPN’s Mike Reiss afterwards.

“I don’t know what it was. I guess I wasn’t playing good or they didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know. But I could have changed that game.”

Butler ranked fourth in pass breakups in 2015 and 2016 before finishing 13th this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He was the scouting service’s sixth-ranked pending free agent and top available cornerback.

The cap-savvy Patriots have roughly $24.4 million tied up in corner Stephon Gilmore and safety Devin McCourty. They seem unlikely to dole out another eight-figure contract to Butler — particularly if he wasn’t worthy of playing in the biggest game of the season. Surely the 49ers took notice.

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