The New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler completed their restricted free-agent visit without a deal Thursday, but both sides remain motivated to get one done, a source told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The visit went well, added the source.
Butler has been issued a first-round tender by the Patriots, so if the Saints choose to give him an offer sheet, they would need to hand over the 11th overall pick, assuming New England declined to match the offer sheet.
However, the Saints could also acquire Butler by negotiating a separate trade for a different combination of picks and/or players with the Patriots that would see Butler sign his tender, be traded, and sign a new contract with New Orleans. Along with pick No. 11 and No. 32, the Saints also have the 10th pick of the second round and two third-round picks to negotiate a trade with.
The Saints reportedly discussed trading former receiver Brandin Cooks for Butler, but landed on a different deal with the Patriots. New Orleans has placed an emphasis on upgrading its defense this offseason, particularly at pass-rusher and cornerback; Butler would become the Saints’ top corner if he were to join the team.
With the Patriots having signed Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65-million deal, they likely won’t be willing to pay Butler like a No. 1 cornerback and would gladly take reasonable compensation to let him go to New Orleans.
If Butler and the Saints reach an agreement Thursday, it likely wouldn’t be announced until after the teams agreed on trade compensation.
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