Devin McCourty's been through the free-agency dance before. Following the 2014 season, he hit unrestricted free agency and heard offers from other clubs before deciding to return to New England.
Malcolm Butler's situation isn't quite the same -- he's a restricted free agent this offseason -- but McCourty would advise him the same way he advises any player looking at his options: Do what's best for you and yours.
During his recent visit with Quick Slants the Podcast, McCourty said he hasn't been pressuring Butler one way or the other.
"The thing is, with us, we're all close enough that we don't have to tell anybody we want them back," McCourty said. "Everybody knows how much we enjoy playing with each other. I just tell him . . . 'Do what's best for yourself, whether that's back here -- which I would love -- or if it's somewhere else I'm not going to hate you forever.'
"You gotta understand, man, this business, contract-wise it's individual-based. The secondary doesn't get paid for one guy's contract. It's just your contract. So you always have to look out for what's best for you and your family."
In speaking to reporters following an appearance at the Play it Forward summit at Boston University on Friday, McCourty explained that he would love to have Butler back if it made sense for all sides.
"For me, I hope to get to play with him another year and hopefully beyond," McCourty said. "But a lot of that is out of my control. I try not to get too involved in the contract and personal matters, but just give my advice to players from things I've experienced and just tell them to do what's best for themselves and their family . . .
"There's not going to be a player that comes in and says, 'Malcolm what's going on? You need to figure something . . .' Guys undertand the business part of it and the respect in the locker room, the different things he's done to help us, his work ehtic, all that doesn't change. Guys still love and respect him, whether he signs and comes back or whatever happens. Guys don't care about that.
"That's the cool thing about getting to know guys and becoming friends, it goes beyond playing together and being on the football field. You look at guys like Vince [Wilfork] and Jerod [Mayo], guys that for me I thought I would be playing witt for my whole career. Things happen. Things change, but it doesn't change the relationship I have with those guys.
"I expect him to be back, probably. Obviously I don't know. I haven't really had any contact with anyone other than just laughing and joking text messages. We'll see what happens. Exciting time. I always tell people if other teams want you and your team wants you it's a good thing. He just has to have fun and enjoy it."
Butler has until April 21 to sign any offer sheet he's been extended from another club. If he signs elsewhere, the Patriots will have the opportunity to match the deal. If the Patriots opt not to match, they would be entitled to the first-round pick of Butler's new club.