BOSTON (CBS) — The once-hot story of Malcolm Butler’s restricted free agency has cooled off significantly in recent weeks. And now it might get even cooler.

Speaking with reporters at the NFL league meeting on Wednesday morning, Saints head coach Sean Payton said that the team won’t be signing Butler to an offer sheet.

What that means is that the Saints will not be willing to sign the restricted free agent if it costs them the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft.

It does not close the door entirely on a possible Butler-Saints marriage, though. If Butler signs his tender with New England, then the Patriots would be free to discuss trades with any team, including the Saints. It’s still possible that the Saints and Patriots could negotiate a deal that makes sense for both sides, and it’s possible that the Patriots could consider the 32nd overall pick (which went from New England to New Orleans in the Brandin Cooks trade) a reasonable return for a cornerback entering his final season under contract.

But, for the first time in quite a while, there is at least some clarity on at least one aspect of Butler’s situation.

Butler visited the Saints on March 16 and talks reportedly went well. Not well enough, however, for the Saints to feel good about losing their No. 11 pick. Saints general manger Mickey Loomis this week described his team’s interest in Butler as “kicking the tires.”


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