<
>

Malcolm Butler's status should have more clarity by end of April

Every Saturday in the offseason, one question from Twitter will be selected to expound upon based on a hot topic surrounding the New England Patriots:

Aaron, my sense of the situation with cornerback Malcolm Butler is that it is still open-ended. While Robert Kraft said it is his hope that Butler returns, and that it isn't the team's intention to trade him, he also acknowledged "there are a lot of people involved in that on both sides."

Also, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton described his team's interest as "ongoing" and added the process might "take a bit of time," so I think it's too early to say we've reached the finish line on what might happen.

The key thing will be when Butler signs his restricted free-agent tender. A player can't be traded if he isn't under contract, so that's why the timing of Butler signing his tender is the next big thing to watch.

From my view, if Butler signs the tender after the draft (post-April 29), it should strengthen the odds that he's playing for the Patriots in 2017. If he signs it before the draft, I'd say the odds of him returning to New England in 2017 are reduced a bit because teams are more likely to make trades during the draft and the Saints could offer a package that entices the Patriots to deal him even though that wasn't the team's intention.

So I'd say we should have more clarity, one way or the other, by the end of April.

NFL Nation reporters John Keim and Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.