According to a report from the Associated Press, Patriots restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler is set to visit the Saints later this week.
Previous reports/rumors earlier this offseason had indicated that New England and New Orleans had discussed the Pro Bowl cornerback in regards to a trade for wide receiver Brandon Cooks. That never came to fruition, though, and the Patriots ended up trading drafted picks, including the team's first-round selection, for Cooks.
New England tendered Butler at the highest restricted free agent level this winter, which includes a salary of $3.91 million in 2017. The former Super Bowl hero is free to negotiate with other teams between now and April 21, though. If he were to sign an offer sheet with New Orleans or any other team, and New England chose not to match, the Patriots would receive that team's first-round pick in next month's draft as compensation. There is also the possibility New England could simply trade Butler to an interested team for something other than the traditional first-round pick compensation.
One theory that's been posed is that New England might allow Butler to go to New Orleans in exchange for the return of its first-round pick – No. 32 overall -- sent to the Saints in the Cooks deal.
Butler is reportedly looking for a long term contract that is in the realm of the deal that New England gave free agent addition Stephon Gilmore last week, reportedly worth more than $13 million per year. Recent reports have indicated that the Patriots have not spoken with Butler about an extension since last year, at which time the money on the table was in the range of $6-7 million per year.
While Butler came to fame as the game-winning hero of Super bowl XLIX as an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama, he's been the Patriots No. 1 cornerback the last two seasons, including earning a Pro Bowl trip in his first year as a starter in 2015. Butler started all 32 games over the last two seasons and at times earned match-up duties with the likes of Antonio Brown and other top opposing wide receivers. He led New England with a career-high four interceptions in 2016.