Lombardi thinks Butler will end up playing for the Patriots in 2017

Lombardi thinks Butler will end up playing for the Patriots in 2017

For all that has been said about Malcolm Butler in the last week -- where he will play, what he will be paid next season, and what he could be paid beyond next season -- one thing we don't know right now is exactly how much he wants. 

We may have an idea. He may want at least what Stephon Gilmore was paid. He may want more. If he wanted to guarantee himself some money so as not to risk injury in 2017, he may be willing to play for less than that.

What does Butler want? That will be key in determining where he plays next season. 

If he's willing to take slightly less than top-of-the-market money in order to be paid one year before he hits unrestricted free agency, then he and the Saints could perhaps agree to a deal that would facilitate a trade. (An offer sheet, it seems, is off the table because the Saints will probably be unwilling to give their No. 11 overall pick to the Patriots and give him a long-term deal.)

If Butler won't settle for anything less than what Gilmore got, then he'll probably be disappointed. And he'll probably end up back in New England.

Even if the Saints are able to hang on to the No. 11 pick, dealing away No. 32 -- which they received from the Patriots in the Brandin Cooks trade -- may be too pricey for them if they're also going to have to pay Butler a huge sum of money on  long-term deal as well. If the Patriots aren't willing to settle for a return that doesn't include a first-rounder, then a deal would be stonewalled. 

In that situation, Butler would return for the Patriots, play on his first-round tender, and wait to hit unrestricted free agency in 2018.

It seems unlikely now, but if Butler and the Saints can't agree to a deal that satisfies both of their needs, then it could happen. It's what former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi believes will happen.

"Doesn't make any sense" for the Saints to give up No. 11 and sign Butler to a high-priced deal, he told The Ringer's NFL Show. "At that pick, the Saints could draft a corner and end up having a cheaper player . . . We know for Malcolm Butler to get traded, it's going to have to be something less than that pick."

Lombardi added: "Why pay Malcolm Butler $13, $14 million a year, sign him to a long-term deal, and then have to turn around a draft pick when you're basically buying a 27-year-old player? You'd be better off drafting a young corner and hopefully developing him."

This year's draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory at the cornerback position so if the Saints hold on to both of their first-round picks, they could potentially get two immediate contributors to turn around their defense while Drew Brees remains one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

In order for them to give up a young, cost-effective player in the draft for Butler, the deal Butler agrees to would probably have to be somewhat affordable. Or at least less than top-of-the-market.

For Butler, that may not be enough. 

"I think Malcolm Butler signs his tender, goes to New England, and puts the onus on New England," Lombardi said. "Play great. I'll make a huge deal next year. I'll be 28 next March, and then I'll make a huge deal on the open market. New England's not going to franchise him . . . "

"For me, the Saints are trying to improve their defense by cashing in Brandin Cooks to get more picks, and then they're going to use those picks to hopefully fix their defense."

That would mean no Butler in New Orleans. Which would mean -- unless other teams come along with an enticing offer for both Butler and the Patriots -- he'll be back in New England. As awkward as that might be.

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Tom Brady doesn't officially become a free agent until the new league year begins on March 18, but the rumors are already flying about the New England Patriot quarterback's future.

A report surfaced earlier in the week that Brady and his family purchased a home in Greenwich, Connecticut. As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran pointed out, that is false.

But that doesn't mean Brady isn't planning on making a move.

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Thursday night on "Arbella Early Edition," Gary Tanguay revealed that a source told him Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen are looking to leave New England.

"I was told today by a source the family is planning to leave the area," Tanguay said. "The priority this time is to let the kids finish school this year, then they're gone."

Tanguay's report doesn't mean Brady is definitely leaving New England, but talks of him and his family looking to live somewhere else continue to gain steam.

If Brady indeed is moving on from New England and looking to start a new chapter, some of that could do with his desire to finally make the money he's worth in free agency.

According to Tanguay, Brady is "embarrassed" by the number of quarterbacks in the league that make more than him and has been fed up about it dating back to the summer, before he signed his contract extension.

Thirteen quarterbacks, including Brady's former backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, make more on average annually than the six-time Super Bowl champion according to

The truth is, we won't know for certain what's going through Brady's mind until the ink is on paper for the 42-year-old's new contract. Until then, it's going to be a stressful offseason for Patriots fans.

Curran: Is this newfound time a silver lining for Patriots?

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

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Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

Needless to say, it's unusual for the New England Patriots to have so much down time in January. Typically, they're playing in the AFC Divisional Round. And the AFC Championship Game. And often, the Super Bowl.

But this year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009. And now, they have a lot of time on their hands.

And while their early playoff exit was surely discouraging, the Patriots could stand to benefit from this extra time.

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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed how the Patriots could utilize the extra time and the positive impact it could have on the organization.

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Curran pointed out that because the team has so often been playing into February, their already thin staff has been stretched thin come draft season, which explains why the team has had some draft misses in recent seasons.

Really, it comes down to 312 days of prepreparation were sacrifice. And so for a bare bones organization in terms of both front office and coaching staff -- these guys have had shorter offseasons by a month on average than any other team in the NFL.

So on one hand, it's remarkable and it's a high-class problem. On the other hand, isn't it somewhat inevitable that you might have some draft swings and misses?

Perry agreed with Curran and brought up that the fact that the extra time off will give Belichick a real chance to thoroughly evaluate his roster.

I think for a team that is looking at a reboot, one of the sort of ironic things about that is that now you have time to really think that through in more detail and not to say that Bill Belichick isn't planning or looking at his roster, how it's constructed, how the contracts set up and trying to plan ahead. I'm sure he is doing that to a certain extent.

But you can only spend so much time on those things when you're getting ready for the divisional round, the AFC Championship Game every year, the Super Bowl every other year.

This surely makes sense and is definitely a positive for the Patriots. Perhaps with that extra time, Belichick can find a way to retain Tom Brady while significantly upgrading his supporting cast.

For more on the Patriots offseason plans, potential changes in their front office, and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.