By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Through the whirlwind of reporting on the latest with Malcolm Butler, it appeared that the Patriots and Saints were simply finalizing a deal that would send the restricted free-agent cornerback to New Orleans. It felt like the two sides were working toward making the trade a reality by the end of the week.
But now, Butler has left New Orleans without an agreement on a long-term deal with the Saints and still has yet to sign his first-round tender with the Patriots. So what, exactly, is the holdup with Butler, the Saints, and the Patriots now?
Reports over the weekend suggested that negotiations between the two sides could be held up by, surprisingly, the Saints’ 11th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. The Saints would have to send that pick to the Patriots if they signed Butler to an RFA offer sheet, rather than the 32nd pick that they already acquired from the Patriots for receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Ringer’s Mike Lombardi, a former Patriots assistant, tweeted on Sunday that the Saints would need to send the Patriots the 11th pick if they want Butler. The tweet appeared to imply that the Patriots are holding out for the 11th pick from the Saints – even in a straight-up trade, rather than offer sheet compensation. But Lombardi later said that he was simply explaining RFA rules. Whatever Lombardi meant by his tweets, or whatever he may or may not know, he only made the situation more confusing.
The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe later quoted Lombardi’s tweet, adding that the 11th pick is “the holdup for the time being” in the Patriots and Saints’ negotiations. He later added that no one realistically believes the 11th pick is actually on the table.
It’s possible that the Patriots are playing hardball over the 11th pick and are trying to get the Saints to add more on top of the 32nd pick. It’s also possible that Butler is unsatisfied with what the Saints are offering for a long-term deal and it’s keeping him from signing his tender. No matter what the real holdup(s) is to this thing, it appears that an actual deal is not imminent – if it even happens.
Lombardi has previously said that he believes the Saints could keep the 32nd pick in a potential Butler trade and that the cornerback could play out his deal with the Patriots in 2017. As it stands right now in this increasingly bizarre saga, it seems that anything is possible.
UPDATE: CSN’s Mike Giardi tweeted on Monday not to “read too much into” the lack of updates on the Butler front. He attributed the perceived holdup to “some quibbling” over the guaranteed money in Butler’s potential extension with the Saints, adding that both sides “know what it will take” to get a Butler trade done and that the whole negotiation has been like a “high-stakes game of chicken” in terms of compensation.
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 email@example.com.