Now that Malcolm Butler signed his contract tender, the New England Patriots can trade the Super Bowl XLIX hero. Bill Belichick would need the right offer to come his way if he's to give up a Pro Bowl-caliber corner playing for dirt cheap.
It sounds like that offer might not come ahead of Thursday's draft in Philadelphia. At least it might not come from the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints were hot after Butler early in the restricted free-agent process, even holding a visit with the corner.
Discussions got far enough along that Butler and the Saints are in basic agreement on a multi-year contract that would make him among the highest-paid CBs in the game, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per sources informed of the situation, if a trade is consummated.
The issue is that trade doesn't appear likely. Per Rapoport, all sides believe a trade is improbable at this point.
The price tag to bring Butler to New Orleans appears to be more that Sean Payton and Co. are willing to pay.
Rapoport's report meshes with one from The MMQB's Peter King on Monday, which noted the Saints are leaning towards keeping their first three picks (11, 32, 42), per a source familiar with the team's thinking. Per King, the Saints believe the depth of the draft could land them several Day 1 contributors between picks 25 and 75. The Saints seem to have soured on the thought of dealing one or more high picks for Butler, and paying the corner a long-term, big-money contract.
It seems bizarre a team would go to the effort to agree to a long-term contract, but balk at paying the price to obtain that player.
While flipping draft picks for an established playmaker seems like a prudent move for a franchise that has repeatedly swung and missed on defensive additions, the Saints appear to value those selections more highly at this stage.
New Orleans owns two first-round picks (11, 32), a high second-rounder (42) and two third-round picks (76, 103). In a draft deep at defensive back, and the Saints needing playmakers at every level to improve a limp defense, sinking multiple assets to acquire Butler doesn't seem as sexy as a few months ago.
There is still a chance before the weekend that the Saints or another club swoops in and offers Belichick a bounty for a player who seems to have an expiration date in New England. If no offer comes, the Patriots will simply head into 2017 with two Pro Bowl-caliber corners as they seek a sixth Super Bowl trophy. Throne of Ease, indeed.
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