BOSTON (CBS) — Malcolm Butler was expected to meet with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, but the restricted free agent cornerback has reportedly already made the trip.
According to Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate, Butler met with the Saints at the team facility in New Orleans on Wednesday. Saints head coach Sean Payton previously told the Associated Press that Butler would meet with the team on Thursday.
The cornerback has been the subject of trade rumors between the Patriots and Saints since the start of NFL free agency. The initial rumor was that the Patriots would swap Butler for wide receiver Brandin Cooks straight-up, but the Patriots acquired Cooks for the 32nd overall pick in the NFL Draft last Friday.
Butler, a restricted free agent, is currently tendered at the first-round level. So if the Saints were to sign Butler to an offer sheet and the Patriots declined to match, the Saints would send the Patriots the 11th overall pick in the draft. The more likely scenario is that they work out a trade that would send the No. 32 pick in the draft back to the Patriots, who currently have zero draft picks in the first two rounds.
Regardless of whatever has transpired behind the scenes between the Patriots and Butler, who look on the verge of parting ways, the cornerback has lost virtually all of his leverage in this situation.