Cornerback Malcolm Butler met with the Saints, but never signed an offer sheet with New Orleans and reportedly won’t be doing so before the April 21 deadline for restricted free agents to do so.
Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that Butler has signed his tender with the Patriots. The tender was at the first-round level and carries a salary of $3.91 million for the 2017 season.
Signing the tender means that Butler won’t be signing with the Saints and that the Saints won’t be sending the 11th overall pick back to New England if the Patriots opt not to match. That doesn’t come as much surprise based on Saints coach Sean Payton’s comments about giving up that pick, but it doesn’t ensure Butler will remain in New England this season.
The Saints (and any other team for that matter) can now engage the Patriots in trade talks for Butler separate from the restricted free agent process, something that was not the case as long as Butler remained unsigned.