New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler signs RFA tender

New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) leaves the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

On Tuesday afternoon, news broke of New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler signing his restricted free-agent tender.

Butler signed the tender worth $3.91 to officially place him under contract with the Patriots for 2017-18. However, the signing does not necessarily mean Butler will play in New England next season, as a trade remains possible.

In the midst of a standoff between Butler and the organization over a new contract, the Patriots signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a staggering five-year, $65 million contract that added fuel to the speculation fire that Butler would play elsewhere if a new deal could not be reached.

Butler previously visited the New Orleans Saints, but the team had no initial plans to sign him to an offer sheet. The deadline for this to happen would have been Friday.

With a potential trade involving Butler, the Patriots may seek to pick up some early-round draft picks in addition to any players involved in such a move. The Patriots first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft doesn’t come until the third round with the 72nd overall pick.

Should New England keep Butler, it will have one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL with Gilmore on the opposite side.

Earlier this afternoon, the Patriots potentially improved their running game by extending an offer sheet to Buffalo Bills running back Mike Gillislee. The offer is for two years and is worth $6.4, leaving the Bills with five days to match it. If Buffalo declines, New England will send a fifth round pick to the Bills as compensation.

The 26-year-old Gillislee is coming off his best year in the NFL thus far, setting career highs in yards receiving and touchdowns with 577 and nine, respectively. Should the Bills decline to match the offer, the Patriots will likely let free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount find a new team. This is also the second consecutive year the Patriots have extended an offer sheet to a Bills player, picking up wide receiver Chris Hogan last offseason.

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