Robert Kraft: Patriots don't intend to trade Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler's future remains in limbo, but if New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft gets his way, the star corner won't leave town.

Speaking to reporters Monday from the NFL's Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Kraft said there is no intention to trade Butler.

"We have an offer sheet out to him and I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him," Kraft said. "I hope he's with us and signs his offer sheet and plays for us. I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team."

The Patriots placed a first-round tender on the restricted free agent, which would pay $3.91 million in 2017. New England has balked at giving the 27-year-old a long-term, big-money deal.

Butler met with the New Orleans Saints earlier this month. After the meeting, Saints coach Sean Payton glowed about the "sharp" corner's intelligence and ability.

As a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, Butler could sign an offer sheet from another team, which the Patriots would have the right to match. If they did not match such an offer, the Pats would be awarded that team's first-round pick (in the case of the Saints it would be the No. 11 selection).

The Patriots could also work out a trade with another club like New Orleans, but such a deal could only be completed after Butler signed his tender.

Another alternative is to have Butler remain in New England this year and play on the restricted tender before hitting the open market next season. This is the option Kraft is most likely referring to with his Monday comments.

After the Patriots gave a hefty contract to cornerback Stephon Gilmore at the start of free agency, leaving New England seemed the only route for Butler to get paid.

In the end, coach Bill Belichick will be the one pulling the strings on any move -- unless Kraft surprisingly changed gears and meddled in the process (something we don't see happening).

If they lost Butler, the Patriots would still have a need at corner. So perhaps the team can convince their Super Bowl hero to sign on for one more season before cashing in long-term.