NFL

Patriots issue rarely used tender on LeGarrette Blount

Rest easy, Patriots fans: The Malcolm Butler drama is over in New England.

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NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday that the Patriots cornerback returned to Foxborough this week to participate in optional offseason workouts, per a source informed of Butler’s attendance.

The 27-year-old cover man skipped the first phase of the team’s workouts in April while his future in New England hung in the balance amid trade whispers.

Speculation that Butler could be shipped to the Saints all but died, though, after the draft. It’s a manageable fate for the fourth-year corner. Playing this season on a one-year, $3.91 million pact, Butler is slated to hit free agency next March. Until that happens, he remains locked into a starting role in New England across from cheap stitched NFL jerseys and talented free-agent pickup .

If Butler felt destined to wind up with the Saints, New Orleans put that concept to bed when they selected rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State with the No. 11 pick in last week’s draft.

“By midnight last night, teams had the opportunity to extend tenders to their unrestricted free agents who had not yet signed,” Rapoport said. “So basically what this is is teams release all of their unrestricted free agents, and say, ‘All right, you go sign with another team, we will not get a compensatory pick anymore and also we don’t have your rights.’ The Patriots had such a list. , who ended up signing with the Vikings, he was on it, as was . was not on it and I wondered why this morning. The reason why was the Patriots essentially retained his rights, trying to get themselves something if he signs with another team. It’s a tough, ruthless business decision, but it is what the Patriots have done.”

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Pro Football Talk first reported the development.

Per the little-used tender, Blount can still negotiate with other teams until July 22. If the running back does not sign by July 22, he reverts to the Patriots and can only sign in New England unless he sits out through Week 10. Rapoport reported Blount would earn $1.1 million on the tender.

The and Detroit Lions have been reported as possible destinations for Blount the past several weeks.

The Patriots used the tender as a callous business decision that would allow Blount to remain part of New England’s compensatory picks formulation. Other unrestricted free agents that sign after May 9, are not part of the equation — for example, Floyd signing on Wednesday does not count in the comp pick formula for the Pats or against the Vikings .

Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016, earning 1,161 yards on 299 carries.

The Patriots signed and this offseason to join a bloated backfield with Dion Lewis and James White. The moves seemed to signal an end for Blount in New England.

“He’s built a culture dedicated to winning,” Trump said. “And he started it with his coach, and I want to tell you that is one special man. It’s called the Patriot Way and that really starts with Coach (Bill) Belichick.

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nike-patriots-33-dion-lewis-white-mens-stitched-nfl-vapor-untouchable-limited-jersey“The Patriots are an incredible organization and this Super Bowl victory was a complete team effort. That’s the beauty of what they do. They win as a team.”

Trump recognized several Patriots players for their efforts during the 25-point comeback, including Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Julian Edelman and Nate Ebner. Belichick later presented Trump with a Patriots jersey and helmet.

“It’s a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength are greatly admired,” Kraft said.

Trump did not mention Super Bowl MVP , who did not attend the event after announcing Wednesday he would not go because of family matters.

LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, and Chris Long did not attend the ceremony, citing political reasons for their decisions. Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower previously cited personal reasons for their decisions not to go. Amendola also did not attend.

A total of 34 Patriots players attended the White House ceremony, the team told NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones. That compares to 36 Patriots players who went to the White House in 2004 and the 27 who attended in 2005. Roughly 50 Patriots players attended the 2015 celebration with then-president Barack Obama.