Restricted free agent Malcolm Butler will visit with the Saints

The fan favorite's status in New England remains up in the air.

Malcolm Butler makes a tackle.
Malcolm Butler making a tackle against the Chiefs. –John Tlumacki / Boston Globe

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After it appeared that he was left out of the Patriots’ acquisition of Brandin Cooks from the Saints, Malcolm Butler will be heading to New Orleans anyway. At least, if only just for a visit.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Butler will be visiting with the Saints later this week:

Currently a restricted free agent, the Patriots’ cornerback is able to sign an offer sheet from another team. Yet as he isn’t an unrestricted free agent, it means that the Patriots are able to match the team’s offer if Bill Belichick wants to keep Butler in New England. If he does not, then Butler leaves and the Patritos are compensated with his new team’s first round draft pick.

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Interestingly, Butler’s case could turn out differently with the Saints:

In other words, Butler might agree to terms with the Saints, but then just work out a deal with the Patriots. After all, New Orleans currently holds New England’s first round pick (32nd overall), which could simply be traded back in exchange for the 27-year-old cornerback.

One reason why this might happen is the friendship that Belichick has with Saints coach Sean Payton:

The Patriots recently signed cornerback Stephen Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. Butler is faced with the prospect of either signing the one-year tender offer from the Patriots worth $3.91 million, or pursue a contract elsewhere in either a trade or as a restricted free agent.