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Patriots' signing of Stephon Gilmore highlights aggressive approach

A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the New England Patriots:

Most significant signing: The Patriots exploded out of the starting gate by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a whopping five-year, $65 million extension. That's No. 1-cornerback money as the Patriots placed a high value on his combination of press-man corner skills and his overall maturity. It took that mix for them to make such a significant investment on the open market with a player outside of their system, which is rare for the Patriots. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Gilmore is a longer corner who should help defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's plans when attempting to match up with some of the NFL's bigger receivers.

Most significant loss: Let's put this one in the "pending" category as cornerback Malcolm Butler is scheduled to visit the New Orleans Saints on Thursday. If the Saints sign him to an offer sheet -- or more likely reach a contract agreement with him and then work out a trade with the Patriots -- that would be a tough blow for the team and its fans to absorb. Butler, in just three years, has become one of the all-time revered players in team history. That's what a Super Bowl-saving interception will do. The Patriots and Butler were close on a long-term extension last year, but agent Derek Simpson said the club hasn't discussed it since.

Player they should have signed: If things don't work out with Butler, he will be the choice here. Otherwise, this is nitpick territory because the Patriots were arguably the NFL's most aggressive team between free agency and the trade market. Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones might have been a value signing on a one-year deal, as he is a former first-round draft choice with some pass-rush skills who could have fit in the team's multiple scheme. The Patriots still have a need on defense and Jones ended up signing a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

What's next: The Patriots currently won't select until early in the third round of the draft, No. 72 overall. So perhaps the club explores a trade that could help fill in that gap, with Butler the most likely scenario. Some have speculated that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could be part of the consideration, but the Patriots won't go down that road.

Overall grade: A-minus. When factoring in the team's aggressive work on the trade market -- landing receiver Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints, tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts and defensive end/outside linebacker Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers -- the Patriots have been busy. Keeping Butler after re-signing Dont'a Hightower would make this an absolute home run of an offseason.