Yesterday, the New England Patriots were able to lock up their biggest unrestricted free agent: The team re-signed linebacker Dont’a Hightower to a 4-year, $43.5 million contract. With the defensive captain back in the fold, the team can now turn its focus towards its biggest restricted free agent, cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Butler and the Patriots are finding themselves at a contractual stalemate. New England has placed the first round tender on the former undrafted free agent but he has yet to sign it and instead is looking for a long-term deal. With the Patriots apparently not willing to give him the one he wants, Butler’s camp has set its eyes on another team: the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints are currently hosting the 27-year old and, according to Ian Rapoport, there is momentum towards finalizing a contract between the two:
The #Saints are hosting #Patriots RFA CB Malcolm Butler on his visit now & there is momentum toward finalizing a deal before he leaves.
Unless the Patriots and Saints have already outlined a potential deal – possibly as part of the trade that brought wide receiver Brandin Cooks to Foxboro –, Butler and the Saints have limited options to get the cornerback to the Big Easy. Yes, they could agree to the long-term contract Rapoport is tweeting about, but with New England still holding Butler’s rights, he would have to sign his tender sheet first.
Once the sheet is signed – and only then – could Butler officially be signed to a Saints offer or be traded by the Patriots. One thing is clear, though: New England will not let the Pro Bowler go for anything less than a first round draft pick. Otherwise, the team would not have placed the first round tender on Butler.
According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, however, there does not appear to be any urgency in getting a potential deal done between the Patriots and Saints:
It doesn't sound like there is any urgency to get something done between Patriots and Saints. Keep you posted.
One word that was used when attempting to get any updates from New England on what they know about Malcolm Butler in New Orleans. Patience.
So even if both the Saints and Butler are closing in on a long-term contract, the Patriots have all the leverage and will use it to their advantage. Apparently, they do not plan on rushing through anything.