The problem is the Patriots hold all of the cards.
Butler's agent has exchanged proposals with New Orleans' management, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, and the two sides are not far apart on numbers.
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If it was just Butler and the Saints involved, a deal would be imminent.
Until Butler signs his $3.91 million tender, New England has no incentive to take action.
At that point, the Pats would decide whether to match the offer or simply accept the No. 11 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft -- the mandated level of compensation for poaching a restricted free agent assigned the first-round tender.
If New Orleans' decision-makers were to balk at that first-round price tag, they would have to come up with a different package of picks to meet New England's demands.
Bottom line? It's still premature to assume that Butler will be playing in a different uniform this season.