Sean Payton says Saints won't sign Malcolm Butler to an offer sheet and risk the 11th pick. Will only trade for him.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) March 29, 2017
Payton says the Saints will not give up the 11th overall pick for Butler and will instead only acquire Butler in a trade. The Saints head coach went on to call the pursuit of Butler “an exploratory mission.”
Butler is an All Pro and Pro Bowl cornerback and one of the top ten in the league at his position; he is also a restricted free agent. Since the Patriots placed a first round tender on Butler, the cornerback would be able to sign an offer sheet with any team in the league, so long as that team is willing to give the Patriots their original first round pick.
The Saints are set to select 11th overall and they also acquired the 32nd overall pick from the Patriots in exchange for WR Brandin Cooks. Because the 11th overall pick is the Saints original pick, that is the selection that would transfer to the Patriots if New Orleans were to extend Butler an offer sheet.
Since that is not happening, Butler is left with one choice: sign the Patriots first round tender for $3.91 million. Butler cannot be traded until he signs that tender. Despite Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressing a desire to retain Butler for the 2017 season under his cheap price tag, an extension for Butler- inside or outside of New England- will not occur until after he signs his tender.
The next question is how much the Saints would be willing to part with in exchange for Butler. The Saints have the 11th, 32nd, 42nd, 76th, and 103rd picks over the first three rounds. Perhaps the Patriots could be interested in taking back the 32nd overall, or adding a second and third round pick.
Or, just as likely, the Patriots would rather keep Butler- an All Pro cornerback- at $3.91 million for the 2017 season and try to strike another extension at some point, or accept that Butler will move on in 2018 and would lead to a 2019 3rd round compensatory pick.
Whatever the course may be, Butler will be the one to make the next move.