BOSTON (CBS) — A couple of weeks ago, everyone in New England was prepped and ready to hear the news that Malcolm Butler had been traded. But no trade was ever made, and now everyone’s trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and what will happen going forward.

To help provide some help in that department, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe joined Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning.

“The two sides tried to negotiate briefly at some point in the last year, and the Patriots never really offered more than $6-7 million annually. Butler was hoping to be a top-10 paid cornerback, which would’ve meant he needed about $9.5 million annually. The Patriots said they’d never get to that amount, and then this offseason of course they signed Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. So Butler was pretty stunned by that, angry at the start,” Howe said. “I think at this point … there’s never been a point where he’s said he wouldn’t go back to the Patriots or he’d hold out or anything like that. So he’d be happy to return. The Patriots have made the negotiations with Butler on any potential long-term deal with Butler a whole lot more difficult, because he has no real reason right now to accept anything less than $13 million per season, because that’s what Gilmore got.

Howe said that Butler’s visit to New Orleans was a positive experience for both sides, but that the Saints still wouldn’t feel comfortable surrendering the 11th overall pick for him.

“That means Butler now has until April 21 to sign an offer sheet with [any other team]. If he doesn’t, he will sign his $3.91 million tender with the Patriots and that would put him under contract for next season, unless the Patriots decided to trade him to the Saints,” Howe said.

What is the likelihood if a potential Pats-Saints swap?

“Well, [Bill Belichick and Sean Payton] have executed nine trades together in the past. And one of them as recently as this month with Brandin Cooks. So they’ve gotten some tricky deals done during the draft, and of course during the free agency period with Cooks. So they have a good working relationship and there’s no doubt that would help the situation,” Howe said. “They say they haven’t discussed trade terms. Believe that if you want. I mean, I’m sure that Belichick has a price in mind. But they can’t trade him until he signs his restricted tender, and it’s well within his right to not sign that tender until he can see if another team will blink and give him an offer sheet. But at this point that part of it kind of seems unlikely.

“So it’s either he’s going to get traded to the Saints or he’s going to play for the $3.91 million tender with the Patriots, and then they can try to work together on a long-term deal at some point before he becomes a free agent. Those look like the only two remaining options at this point.”

The fact that the Patriots moved so quickly to sign Gilmore perhaps shows that Belichick already realized that Butler would not be in the Patriots’ long-term plans.

“Maybe they just realized they had very little intention of paying him,” Howe said. “Belichick’s also on a roll with this stuff. He gave up on Chandler Jones knowing full well a year ago that he wasn’t going to sign him to a contract extension and then did the same thing with Jamie Collins. I totally was on board with the Jones trade at the time; I didn’t understand the Collins one and I still don’t completely get what happened and why he had to be shipped out of town. But obviously that worked in the Patriots’ favor as well.

“As much as I wouldn’t understand why he’d give up on a guy like Butler, especially if this guy can help you win another Super Bowl, Belichick has a great feel for these moves right now. He’s riding the hot hand.”

Howe was also asked about the return of Roger Goodell to Gillette Stadium, the commissioner’s first trip to Foxboro since the start of DeflateGate.

“I think it needs to happen. You can put a bow on DeflateGate and really start to put this thing in the rear-view mirror as much as possible,” Howe said. “It’s not going to endear him to Patriots fans and Tom Brady and people in the Patriots organization all that much, but it’s something that he needs to do to at least put the story line to bed as much as possible.”

Howe was also asked about the reports of the Patriots calling the Seahawks about Richard Sherman, and more. Listen below:

  1. I started out being very sympathetic to Malcolm Butler, but that’s shifted the more I’ve read about it. Choosing to make a manager of the Popeye’s where he was working when BB gave him an opportunity, his agent, seems like a mistake. The agent, with no experience by many accounts, has done Butler a disservice. Has left a lot of money on the table. If they had accepted the $7mil a year last year, there was a signing bonus and other incentives that would have added up to an additional $6. mil. And he would have made more in 2016 and 2017 while waiting for free agency and the chance for a bigger contract. And expecting to be paid as much as Gilmore? BB doesn’t seem to see them the same. I wouldn’t know.

    And he’s held things up by refusing to sign his tender. That may have influenced why BB gave Gilmore that contract, thinking that was where Butler’s head was at. Butler misinterpreted, that because BB wouldn’t give Butler more than $7mil that he wouldn’t give any one more than that. I also think it was completely unrealistic to think someone was going to give him a big contract with guaranteed money AND give the Patriots a first round pick. That was pretty foolish to think was going to happen.

    It’s unfortunate. And a more experienced agent might have avoided a lot of the angst and mistakes.

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