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2022 NFL free agency: Malcolm Butler, Leonard Fournette among Patriots’ reported free agency visits

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Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Four years after leaving the New England Patriots in controversial fashion, cornerback Malcolm Butler is back — at least for a tryout. According to a report by the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, Butler is at Gillette Stadium on Monday to work out with the team.

He is not the only big name slated to visit the Patriots: according to ESPN’s Field Yates, running back Leonard Fournette is also in town. Furthermore, the team is hosting offensive lineman Ryan Bates, as was previously reported.

Butler, 32, originally joined the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2014. Signing a three-year contract with the Patriots, the West Alabama product had a surprisingly solid training camp and preseason and found his way onto the 53-man roster.

Serving as a depth player for most of the year, Butler was cast into the spotlight on the biggest stage. With slot cornerback Kyle Arrington struggling in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots turned to the rookie. Butler responded by making one of the biggest plays in NFL history: with the New England defense trying to win the game with a goal-line stand, Butler intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line.

The play catapulted Butler to an instant star, and he developed into one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks over the next three seasons — winning another Super Bowl along the way. With the Patriots signing Stephon Gilmore to a massive contract in 2017, however, the writing was on the wall for the then-restricted free agent.

The Patriots had already tried to trade Butler during the offseason, but he ended up staying with the club for a fourth season. That year saw him serve as the starting perimeter cornerback opposite Gilmore, but play zero defensive snaps in the Super Bowl: New England head coach Bill Belichick decided to bench Butler.

One month later, he left the Patriots to join the Tennessee Titans on a five-year, $61 million contract. Butler spent three seasons in Tennessee, plus another with the Arizona Cardinals before announcing his retirement last August. However, he is now trying to make a comeback.

In total, Butler has appeared in 100 regular season games and 12 playoff contests. Butler has 19 interceptions on his résumé, including the aforementioned Super Bowl winner.

Fournette, meanwhile, entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Spending the first three seasons of his career in Jacksonville, Fournette proved himself a solid player on a mostly bad team. Nonetheless, he was released in 2020 after unsuccessful trade attempts.

The LSU product went on to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, promptly winning a Super Bowl and earning himself the nickname “Playoff Lenny.” Fournette re-signed with the team in 2021 and was its leading running back the following season.

Through five seasons in the NFL, Fournette has appeared in 71 regular season and playoff games. He has touched the football 1,363 times for a combined 6,347 yards and 45 touchdowns.

Bates, 25, entered the NFL in 2019 as an undrafted free agent signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was traded to the Buffalo Bills later that same season. In three years as a Bill, the Penn State product suited up for 41 games. All four of his career starts came down the stretch in 2021, including the playoff game against the Patriots.