Cross off one path in Malcolm Butler's Choose Your Own Adventure offseason.
"Currently it's my understanding that he hasn't signed his tender," Payton said at the Annual League Meeting on Wednesday. "We can sign him to an offer sheet, but I don't think we're going to do that and give up the 11th pick. In fact, I know we won't do that. So it is what it is right now."
Payton's definitive response nixes one of Butler's options in an effort to earn a long-term deal.
The coach wouldn't speculate on any potential trade scenarios that could bring Butler to New Orleans. If the Saints won't sign the 27-year-old corner to an offer sheet, a trade is the only option to pry him away from New England this season.
If the Saints won't hand Butler an official offer sheet -- and no other team steps up out of the mist -- the corner will eventually be forced to sign his restricted free-agent tender.
At that point the Patriots could trade him to the highest bidder, where Butler would likely get the long-term deal he's seeking. The Super Bowl XLIX hero could also play out the season on the low-cost $3.91 million tender before hitting the open market next year.
It's not a surprise that the Saints wouldn't fork over the No. 11 pick and hand Butler a massive contract in one swoop. Hearing Sean Payton say it outright, however, certainly helps the Patriots' leverage in convincing the undrafted free agent to give them one more year of cheap labor.