Another wrinkle to Malcolm Butler‘s interesting restricted free agency has been added.
The New Orleans Saints will meet with the restricted free agent cornerback on Thursday in New Orleans, Saints head coach Sean Payton confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday.
New Orleans reportedly wanted to acquire Butler via trade as part of a package trade with wide receiver Brandin Cooks, but instead the Saints shipped Cooks off to New England for draft picks with the hope of being able to court Butler in free agency.
The Saints will not be able to sign Butler right away and land him, however. The team will have to sign Butler to an offer sheet since the 27-year-old breakout cornerback is restricted. New England issued a first-round tender on Butler worth $3.9 million ahead of NFL free agency, which Butler has refused to sign due to frustrations over his contract situation.
(READ: Report: Malcolm Butler Wants Out of New England)
It’s highly likely in mind that Butler and the Saints will agree to some form of a contract with the Saints having the flexibility in the draft to dish out a first-round draft pick to the Patriots for Butler to sign him. It just so happens that the Patriots will be getting their original draft pick back after trading it for Cooks.
On offense, the Saints appear mostly set despite trading Cooks. They still have Drew Brees at quarterback, and Mark Ingram at running back, who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Brees still has plenty of targets with Willie Snead and Michael Thomas at receiver and Colby Fleener at tight end.
Adding in Butler on defense would give the Saints secondary some much help, as cornerback Delvin Breaux and safety Kenny Vaccaro have had trouble staying on the field in recent years. New Orleans will likely use the draft to address their pressing needs at linebacker and on the defensive line.
The 27-year-old Butler had 63 total tackles in the 2016 regular season to go along with 17 pass deflections, 4 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.
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