by: Ryan Hannable on Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:48pm

Malcolm Butler could be traded in the next week. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)Malcolm Butler’s fate for 2017 will likely be decided by the end of next weekend.

Either he will be a member of the Patriots, or get dealt to another team for 2017 draft picks.

The cornerback officially signed his first-round tender with the Patriots on Tuesday, meaning he’s officially on the books with New England for $3.91 million this season, but now that he’s property of the team, the Patriots can negotiate a potential trade with other teams. Prior to him signing the tender, it was against the CBA for the Patriots to negotiate potential trades involving him with other teams.

Given what has taken place over the last few months with Butler and his people voicing their unhappiness through the media, and even the cornerback visiting the Saints, other teams know the 27-year-old is available via trade — but only if they present the Patriots the right deal.

If the Patriots get presented an offer they like, they will likely trade him. If not, they keep one of the better corners in the game and have arguably the best cornerback tandem in football with he and Stephon Gilmore. 

So, how will the Patriots approach this situation? Not too different than any other one.

“Our focus and goal is to put together the best team possible and however we’re going to improve our team, whatever players we think are going to help our team for the 2017 season, then that’s what we’re going to do,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said at his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday.

“Our philosophy on the draft is to add good football players to our team, however we do that,” he added. “So whoever those players are, whatever positions they play, that’s always been the most important thing for us and that’s not going to change.”

Not really much insight there, but looking at how the Patriots have prepared for the draft it may hint they are preparing to have a pick high in the draft, likely because of a Butler trade. 

If a trade occurs, it appears the Saints would almost certainly be involved given what has already taken place. First with Butler visiting them, but also the fact the Patriots and Saints have already made a trade this offseason. It could potentially be a case where the Patriots get their first-round pick (No. 32 overall) back as part of a deal. (New England sent pick No. 32 overall to New Orleans as part of the the trade for Brandin Cooks.)

Since mid-March the Patriots have not had a pick until the third round (No. 72 overall), but despite this they have been connected to a number of players who surely will be gone by the time pick No. 72 comes around. Yes, just because a team brings a player in for a visit does not mean it is going to draft that player, but when the Patriots are connected to so many first-round talents when they don’t have a pick until the third round, it raises some eye brows.

In addition, New England has oddly been connected to a number of cornerbacks. If Butler were to return for 2017, this wouldn’t even be close to a need with Gilmore, Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman in the mix. Take Butler out of the equation, a potential No. 2 cornerback could be of need to play opposite Gilmore, which could explain the cornerback connections. 

The Patriots reportedly have had cornerbacks Teez Tabor out of Florida, Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan and Brendan Langley out of Lamar in for official visits. Tabor is especially interesting considering he almost certainly won’t be around by the time No. 72 comes around. With only 30 visits allowed, and knowing the Patriots, wouldn’t they only use these on players they have a legitimate shot at getting?

It isn’t just cornerbacks, either. 

The Patriots reportedly brought in Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who is said to be the best overall tackle in the draft and a sure first-round pick. Also, at Vanderbilt’s pro day, Bill Belichick spent a ton of time with linebacker Zach Cunningham, who is arguably the best linebacker in the draft. 

Doing due diligence is one thing, but it appears the Patriots have been connected to far too many potential first-round picks for a team that doesn’t have a pick until the third round. Even if the team doesn’t plan on taking these players, doing work on first-round players could give them a better idea how the round will go. All of this could suggest the Patriots ultimately plan on picking in the first round. 

Ultimately, the Patriots have all the leverage with Butler and will have the final say as to what they do with him, and it seems like a win-win no matter what for them. But, based on what has taken place over the last several weeks, don’t be surprised if Butler is wearing a Saints jersey come next weekend.