Last week, Patriots Pro Bowl restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler visited the New Orleans Saints, but failed to sign an offer sheet. Reportedly, both sides were motivated to get a deal done, but it ultimately came down to the Saints not offering enough guaranteed money. The Saints were hoping to get a deal done with Butler before he left the facility but, since Thursday, there have not been any real developments in this twisted story.
It feels as if I have typed this a million times, but people still do not understand how restricted free agency works, so I will spell it all out for everyone again. As a restricted free agent, the Patriots "own the rights" of Malcolm Butler. While he is not on the roster and technically not part of the team, as soon as Butler signs the $3.91 million first-round tender, he will be added onto the Patriots roster. Butler is free to visit other teams and talk about a potential offer sheet, which the Patriots have the right to match. If the Patriots do not match the offer sheet, they would receive first-round pick compensation which, in the case of the New Orleans Saints, would be the 11th overall pick. The Saints did obtain the 32nd overall pick in the deal that sent Brandin Cooks to New England, but they must give away their original first-round pick in restricted free agency.
Furthermore, if Butler were to sit out until a new deal is struck, well he is a lot dumber than we all think. Belichick has all of the leverage in this situation. In order to hit unrestricted free agency next season, Butler has to play at least six games in the 2017 season. Butler has to play next season on the tender, regardless of where it is, because it is a damn good bargain. Even if Butler is traded to New Orleans, chances are they won't just rip up his $3.91 million salary this season and give him $10+ million per season out of the goodness of their own hearts.
Rightfully so, Bill Belichick should, and probably is, demanding the 11th pick as compensation for Butler's services. The Saints have already said they do not want to give up the 11th pick, but they are enamored with the player and may be willing to bite if this process is dragged out enough. Conversely, the Saints could keep the 11th pick and take a cornerback high in this draft, as it is a very deep draft at the position.
Simply put, Malcolm Butler could come back to New England after this entire fiasco and play in a Patriots uniform for another season. Like I have said before, Belichick should not be doing his friend, Sean Payton, any favors. Even if there was a nod-nod, wink-wink agreement after the Brandin Cooks trade that they would revisit the Malcolm Butler situation, this is ultimately a business. Belichick should dig his heels in for the 11th overall pick or simply keep the player, have him play out the season at just under $4 million, and have not only one of the most talented secondaries in the league, but one of the most talented Patriots teams ever assembled.