PHOENIX — The lingering question of the Patriots’ offseason is where will Malcolm Butler play in 2017 and beyond?
If team owner Robert Kraft gets his wish, the restricted free agent will be hanging around the same corners he has been for the past three seasons.
Kraft touched on a number of topics, including his quarterbacks and the team’s aggressive approach on the free agent market, during a Monday afternoon chat outside the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, site of the NFL meetings.
“I sure hope so,’’ Kraft said when asked if he anticipated having Butler back in Foxborough next season. “You know, we have a [tender] out to him and I know he has the ability to go out and get someone to sign him and we either match it or get the first-round draft pick. I hope he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us.’’
Kraft made no secret of how he feels about Butler, who joined the Patriots in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama and capped his rookie season with a Super Bowl-saving, goal line interception against the Seahawks.
“I have a great affection for him,’’ said Kraft. “He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team. But there are a lot of people involved in that.”
Asked directly if it was the Patriots’ intention not to trade Butler, Kraft reiterated his desire.
“No, no,’’ he said. “I don’t want to, in any way, take away from his rights, I want to be clear. I hope he’s with us.’’
To date, Butler has made just one free agent trip, to New Orleans, but has yet to receive an offer sheet.
If he plays under the Patriots tender, the $3.91 million would be a significant bump from his $600,000 salary in 2016. He stands to make an even bigger jump next season as an unrestricted free agent. Even if Butler were franchised, he’d be staring at salary just north of $15 million for 2018.
■ Independent of what happens with Butler, Kraft also said he’d “love” to have Darrelle Revis back. Revis, who helped the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX in his lone season in New England, is a free agent after being released by the Jets last month.
■ The owner was less decisive when asked about the status of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason.
“I don’t have the right demeanor of our coach,’’ a smiling Kraft said when asked if he saw a scenario in which the Patriots flipped Garoppolo. “I charge him to handle all football matters. We’re privileged to have the greatest quarterback in the history of the game and it looks like he’s playing pretty solid and he’s off the charts in my opinion and we’re lucky to have him. That’s the most important position on the team, needless to say. I don’t think you can ever have too much depth at that position. I’ve charged Bill [Belichick] with making those decisions and I’ll leave that with him.’’
■ Whether the Patriots would commit to paying starting salaries for two quarterbacks (Garoppolo could get franchised next season), Kraft said that decision also would rest with Belichick.
■ With Garoppolo the subject of so much talk, just how long does Kraft expect Tom Brady to play?
“As recently as 2-3 days ago he assured me he’s willing to play 6-7 more years,’’ said the owner. “And at the level he performs at, there’s no one who’d be more happier than I — and our fan base.’’
■ Kraft said he’s still amazed by the consistency Brady displays year after year. “I think Tommy’s sustained excellence is just unbelievable. It’s a lifestyle. You know, he’s in training now. It’s not like he’s stopped working,’’ said Kraft. “I remember after our Super Bowl in ’01, going down in the old training room at Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, and he’s in there with the music blaring working out. So, he’s really dedicated. The thing that’s amazing about him, to this day, he hasn’t changed as a human being in how he relates to people, but also how he works out.’’
Kraft then remembered that there was one thing that Brady has changed.
“How he eats and his diet,’’ said Kraft. “I’m not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I’d do it.’’
■ Kraft also said he’d like to keep Belichick patrolling his sideline until “he’s in his 80s.’’
■ The owner fully endorsed his club’s plunge into transforming the roster, including the spate of trades and signings in free agency on Day 1.
“Part of it is the makeup of our team and the opportunities that have come along,’’ he said. “I think what [the football staff] has done has been excellent, including getting [Brandin Cooks] from New Orleans. Since I’ve owned the team the only player that could make an impact like that at wide receiver was Randy Moss. [Cooks] doesn’t have his height but he looks like he’s got his speed. So, I think that’s complementary to what we have on the team and I’m excited about that.’’
■ Giving up draft picks (the Patriots currently won’t make a selection until the third round next month) is just part of the price you pay when you think you can make your club better immediately through trades, Kraft said. The Patriots traded first- and third-round picks to acquire Cooks and a fourth-rounder in the trade for tight end Dwayne Allen.
“The draft gives you young people where you can basically control your costs for four years or five years as a first-round draft pick,’’ said Kraft. “But we’ve gotten some younger players who are known entities.
“You know, we’ve had some draft picks high up and they haven’t performed well. So having known value vs. not being sure and I think Brandin is 23, [Stephon] Gilmore is 26, and [Dwayne Allen] is 27. So, there’s a risk-reward analysis there.’’
■ As expected, Belichick left the meetings Monday afternoon to scout some Pro Days this week. Earlier, the coach was spotted chatting with commissioner Roger Goodell shortly after owners approved the Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas.