By Danny Picard
BOSTON — Contrary to popular belief, the signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore does not mean that Malcolm Butler is on his way out of New England.
The Patriots signed Gilmore on Thursday — the first day of NFL free agency — to a five-year, $65 million deal, with $40 million guaranteed. This comes after the team assigned a first-round tender on Butler, which will pay him $3.91 million for the upcoming season.
Butler is a restricted free agent. He can go out and sign a contract with another team, but the Patriots have the right to match that same offer, which would keep him in New England. If the Patriots refused to match that offer, then they’d receive a first-round pick from the team that signed him.
Instead of working out a multi-year extension like that of Gilmore’s, perhaps this is Bill Belichick’s way of saying, “Go out and see how much you’re worth.” But I certainly don’t think the Patriots signed Gilmore to be Butler’s replacement. Not for the immediate future, at least.