Had a few things played out differently this past spring, Malcolm Butler might be preparing to take on Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots’ offense this Sunday.
Butler was the subject of rampant trade/free agency speculation in the lead-up to the 2017 NFL Draft, much of it involving the New Orleans Saints, whom the cornerback visited during his brief time as a restricted free agent.
With the Patriots set to visit the Saints this weekend, New Orleans coach Sean Payton reflected on that visit and why Butler ultimately wound up back in New England.
“Well, it’s a short visit,” Payton said in a conference call Wednesday morning. “You try to get as much background as you can on a player, get an idea of their personality and how they’d fit in, what kind of teammate they’d be. You just try to spend as much time as you can getting to know the player and how he learns.
“Regionally, (Butler’s) family is from down around this area, so there were a few things that we had a chance to visit about aside from football. But I think mainly, it’s trying to get an idea of what kind of teammate the player is and what are his strengths and weaknesses, just from a mental standpoint.”
After meeting with the Saints in late March, Butler signed his first-round tender with the Patriots in mid-April. The team still could have traded the 27-year-old to New Orleans, but that possibility went out the window when the Saints used the 11th overall pick on Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Lattimore now is starting for the Saints, while Butler is playing on what amounts to a one-year contract in New England.
“Listen, you never know for sure,” Payton said when asked how close the sides were to making a deal. “You kind of do your homework, just like I’m sure Bill (Belichick) does, and you communicate, and you kind of go from there. And that’s really it. I think that both teams are trying to help themselves and look closely at the options, and we ended up with just the one trade.”
That “one trade” was with the Patriots. It landed the Saints the 32nd overall pick in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
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