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The Pats placed a first-round tender on Butler, which would pay $3.91 million in 2017. New England can match any offer sheet given to Butler.
If the Saints sign the 27-year-old cover man to a long-term contract offer that New England does not match, they would be forced to give up a first-round pick -- their No. 11 choice. It would be a steep price to pay Butler big money and give up high draft choice (a price that several beat reporters believe the Saints wouldn't be willing to pay).
New Orleans and New England could also work out a separate trade for Butler, if he signs his restricted free-agent tender first. Then the Saints would give Butler his long-term deal.
The Saints have been hot after Butler during this free-agent period. The corner's name was floated during discussions between New Orleans and New England for receiver Brandin Cooks. With Butler not signing his tender (thus making him untradeable at the time), the Saints and Pats finalized a trade for Cooks late last week. New England shipped the No. 32 overall pick and the No. 103 pick for the receiver and the Saints' fourth-round pick.
In their seemingly yearly effort to rebuild a woebegone defense, adding Butler would give the Saints a rising star at corner, allowing them to select for need during this year's draft, which is loaded at pass rusher -- another big priority for the Saints.
Butler wants to be paid like the star corner he's become since making his famous game-winning play in Super Bowl XLIX. After the Patriots shelled out big money to cornerback Stephon Gilmore at the start of free agency, it's seemed Butler's ticket to getting paid is leaving New England.
There are still several amorphous stages of the courting process before Butler lands in New Orleans with a new contract, but Thursday's visit is the next step.