Remembering the unusual circumstances surrounding Butler's RFA visit to New Orleans


Remembering the unusual circumstances surrounding Butler's RFA visit to New Orleans

FOXBORO -- Back in March, the Saints were interested enough in Malcolm Butler to bring him in for a visit as a restricted free agent. But they were not interested enough in him to sign him to an offer sheet, relinquishing their No. 11 overall pick in the draft in the process. 

If Butler was going to New Orleans, then, it was going to be via trade. But Butler wasn't under contract with the Patriots -- he hadn't yet signed his first-round tender worth $3.91 million -- so it was against league rules for the Saints and Patriots to actually discuss a trade involving Butler. 


It was a bit of an unusual scenario. 

You had the Saints hosting a restricted free agent with no intention of signing him to an offer sheet. You had a player looking for a new contract with no leverage. You had a team interested in making a trade that couldn't legally discuss the possibility of a trade until the player signed his restricted free-agent tender.

The Saints simply used Butler's status as a restricted free agent to meet with him, "put him on the board, find out how much football he knows" in case a trade could be hammered out later, Sean Payton indicated later

On Wednesday, during a conference call with Patriots reporters, Payton reflected back on that visit with Butler. 

"It’s a short visit and you try to get as much background as you can on a player, get an idea of their personality and how they fit in, what kind of teammate they’d be and just try to spend as much time as you can getting to know the player and how he learns," Payton said. "Regionally, his family is from down around this area and 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."

Butler did eventually sign his tender with the Patriots, of course, and trade talks may have occurred soon thereafter. But it wasn't long before the Saints were able to pick up a younger, more cost-effective corner option in the draft.

They used their No. 11 overall choice to select Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore, who many thought would be drafted sooner. If he had been, perhaps the Saints would have been motivated to deal for Butler. But Lattimore slipped, and suddenly the need for another No. 1 corner in New Orleans became obsolete. 

Lattimore started at right corner for the Saints on Monday night and he played in 61 of a possible 65 snaps. 

"You never know for sure," Payton said when asked if it seemed like his team might get a deal done with Butler. "You kind of do your homework, just like I’m sure Bill [Belichick] does, and then you communicate and 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 was the Brandin Cooks trade, which sent the Patriots No. 32 overall pick to New Orleans. 

Had the draft fallen differently, had the Saints been left without a cornerback option at No. 11, who knows what would have happened to Butler? Or to that No. 32 overall pick, which the Saints kept and turned into starting left tackle Ryan Ramcyzk?

As was the case with the Cooks trade, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the two teams involved might be disappointed with the outcome. The Saints ended up with cornerstone pieces in the draft, addressing two positions of need. The Patriots, meanwhile, got a No. 1-caliber corner for one season at the low, low price of $3.91 million. 

Not a bad deal for either side. 

Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."

Jesse James relieved Patriots didn't win Super Bowl LII

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Jesse James relieved Patriots didn't win Super Bowl LII

Steelers tight end Jesse James is glad the Patriots' Super Bowl pursuit is done -- mostly because he played a big part in helping accelerate it.

In the final moments of the game, James failed to catch the ball during a Week 15 contest between the Steelers and the Patriots. The non-catch was a controversial one.

James told Centre Daily Times' Josh Moyer he finally felt relief on the morning after the Super Bowl when the Patriots fell to the Eagles, 41-33.

“I don’t feel like I gave them a Super Bowl with that,” James told the Daily Times. “So I’m over it now, but it’s going to be a topic of conversation until the rule gets changed — or it doesn’t.”

James' play was initially ruled a touchdown before the referees overturned the play, and took the lead away from the Steelers in the final moments of the game. Ben Roethlisberger then threw an interception a few plays later. By winning, the Patriots took a huge step in locking themselves into the AFC's top seed with a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which they rode into the Super Bowl.

But of course, they couldn't finish their Super Bowl pursuit -- to James' satisfaction.