Remember: the original report of rumored talks between the two teams actually involved a swap of Brandin Cooks for Malcolm Butler. With the return now only including a swap of draft picks and Butler’s name notably absent, there might just be more to the story here.
Saints and Patriots still could consider a trade later on for CB Malcolm Butler, whose name arose in talks for WR Brandin Cooks, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2017
The Saints received the Patriots first round pick as the highlight of the package (32nd overall, last in the first round). The two teams also exchanged a 3rd for a 4th Round pick, with the Saints moving up a few picks, but it was clear that the prize was pick #32.
Malcolm Butler, a restricted free agent, has yet to sign his first round tender with the team, meaning he couldn’t be traded by New England as he is not currently on their roster. If he signs the tender with the Patriots, any other team who then tries to sign Butler would have to forfeit a first round pick to do so. As was previously suggested, the Saints could theoretically then forfeit a first round pick to try to sign Butler, or - the more likely scenario - trade the Patriots 32nd overall pick back to New England for the services of Malcolm Butler.
Remember too that Brandin Cooks had a roster bonus coming his way from the Saints if he was still on the Saints roster on March 14th. Rushing a trade before Butler officially signed his contract could be due in part to the Saints wanting to avoid paying Brandin Cooks his roster bonus. That Saints could have decided it was better to trade Cooks now and not pay his roster and to use the 32nd overall pick as a placeholder for Butler who would not be guaranteed to sign his contract by the March 14th deadline. Once Butler signs his contract, the originally intended deal could take place.
So in that scenario, the Saints would be trading Brandin Cooks and a 4th round pick for Malcolm Butler and a 3rd. Even though Butler would only be a on a one-year deal, it would be significantly more palatable for Saints fans. But that might not be the end of it.
I'm actually starting to think the delay in Cooks trade is Pats are working on longterm deal with Butler on #Saints behalf.— Christopher Dunnells (@dunnellz) March 10, 2017
What if part of the delay is that the Patriots are in talks with locking up Butler to a multi-year deal on behalf of the Saints, knowing that a trade is in the works? Or maybe the Patriots are waiting for Butler to sign his one-year deal with Butler’s agent and the Saints talking about the possibility of a long-term extension? It would be a huge coup at this point to trade Brandin Cooks for multiple years of a top NFL cornerback.
The Brandin Cooks/Malcolm Butler saga is far from over. Stay tuned for more news.