screen-shot-2017-03-19-at-8-03-58-pmBy Max Cohen 3/18/2017

Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler has been at the center of trade rumors and contract talks for the majority of free agency. The trade rumors began when Butler was cited as part of deal involving Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Although the Patriots ended up only swapping picks for Cooks, the Saints still have their eyes on Butler.

But their eyes may be bigger than their stomachs, as they will have to pay a hefty price if they plan on signing Butler. The cornerback is currently a restricted free agent, and if New Orleans signs him to an offer sheet, the Patriots can match the offer and Butler stays in New England. However, if the Patriots decline to match, the Saints will have to send their first-round pick to the Patriots, the 11th overall selection.

The Saints have to decide if Butler is worth the price-tag. Pro Football Focus ranked Butler as the second best corner in the NFL, behind only Aqib Talib of the Denver Broncos. The concern is how he performs against top talent. Butler has struggled against some of the better receivers in the league. He gave up 135 yards receiving to Jarvis Landry and 94 yards to Antonio Brown in regular season matchups with the Dolphins and Steelers respectively last year.

If the Saints decide not to pursue Butler and if he doesn’t sign a contract extension with the Patriots, he’ll remain a Patriot for one more season. Butler will then become an unrestricted free agent next year, meaning he could really cash in if he plays well and his new team won’t have to give up a first-round selection to get him.