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Malcolm Butler, Saints agree to deal in principle; trade still unlikely

Now that Patriots’ CB Malcolm Butler has signed his tender, negotiations are now open for the star cornerback. Butler and the Saints have agreed to a prospective long-term contract with the caveat of Butler being traded, but both the Saints and Patriots appear to be against the idea of a trade at this time.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Story after story regarding Malcolm Butler has come and gone since the offseason began, and now a new one has emerged. Butler and the New Orleans Saints have agreed to a long-term contract should Butler be traded to New Orleans. The details of the contract are unknown. All that is known is that it would make a Butler a top paid corner. However, it’s the Saints that are pushing against a trade, per’s Kevin Patra, due to the trade price being too steep.

MMBQ’s Peter King reported earlier in the week that the Saints adamantly want to keep their first three picks (11, 32, 42). This would fit in with Saints’ draft analyst Jeff Ireland’s modus operandi, as Ireland has been drafting defense heavily (by Saints’ standards) since he came on in 2015. In a cornerback heavy draft, it’s entirely possible that Ireland wants to keep building with his own pieces rather than bringing in an outside entity.

Butler is a slightly different situation that the Jamie Collins to the Browns trade last year. The RFA tender worked as a less restrictive franchise tag for the Patriots this offseason, and the Patriots hold leverage that they didn’t in negotiations with Collins. There’s something to be said for trading a player for value before his contract expires, but there’s something else to be said for keeping a high-tier player at his position for a season on a cheap contract while pairing him with coveted free agent acquisition Stephon Gilmore.

Although the Saints hold leverage as the season wears on, the Patriots hold all of the cards currently. It won’t be known if the Saints will make a move until the draft (day two of the draft to be specific), but they may try to flip a 2018 pick into Butler afterwards. Regardless of what happens, Ireland appears to have a specific vision for this draft, and most people should know by now that the Patriots aren’t going to blink.