According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, the Patriots are exploring the possibilities of trading Malcolm Butler to the Saints for Brandin Cooks. Evidently the reported signing Stephon Gilmore may have been step one in a larger plan.
The Patriots were linked to trade rumors involving Cooks during the Combine, reportedly offering a first-round pick in exchange for the young wideout in addition to a lower pick. The latest rumor comes on the heels of Gilmore's signing, which has been reported to be in the neighborhood of five years and $70 million.
Butler is a restricted free agent and received a first-round tender from the Patriots, which calls for $3.91 million in 2017. Butler is presumably hoping for a long-term extension, and reports on the situation indicate a lack of progress in that direction.
With Gilmore on board, the Patriots could view it as leverage and therefore could be content to lose Butler. Cooks is a dynamic slot receiver with big-play potential who has the ability to catch the ball outside the numbers as well. Of course, it could also be an effort by the team to exert more leverage on Butler in order to get a deal done.
We'll keep an eye on this one as the day continues.