By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It certainly looks like the Patriots are on the verge of sending Malcolm Butler to the New Orleans Saints, possibly to get back the 32nd pick in April’s NFL Draft. It would essentially complete a swap of Butler for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints for the pick last Friday.
Meanwhile, Saints head coach Sean Payton has publicly admitted that the Cooks trade is meant to upgrade the Saints’ poor defense – regardless of how they do it. Speaking to Denver-based Mile High Sports, Payton said that moving Cooks represented the Saints’ best chance at adding an impact player on defense as soon as next season.
“It really got down to an opportunity to help improve our team, possibly defensively,” said Payton. “We’ll be able to look at it three years down the road with what we’re able to do with the first-round pick, and then also the additional third-round pick.”
While it seems that Payton intends to send the 32nd pick back to the Patriots for Butler, there’s still the chance that the Saints and Butler can’t agree on a long-term deal and Payton simply drafts a player at that spot. But Bill Belichick was recently spotted working with a draft prospect that could end up being selected at the end of the first round, so it still appears that the most likely result is that Butler-for-No. 32 becomes a reality.
Payton’s public comments didn’t stop there. He also spoke openly about his meeting with Butler to XTRA 1360 in San Diego. “I’d say he’s humble, but when you watch the tape, he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” said Payton (via ESPN).
The Saints even tweeted about it from the team’s official account:
This is a rare move for any team in the league, to comment so candidly about meeting another team’s player. It’s ultimately another strong indicator that a Butler trade is eventually going to happen.
The trade may not happen until draft night. Perhaps the Saints are waiting to see who they could take in the draft before deciding what to do. Perhaps they ultimately decide to draft someone with No. 32 and the Patriots keep Butler around for at least one more season. But the more that comes out about the Patriots and Saints, the more it appears that Butler-for-Cooks is only a matter of time.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.