Dont'a Hightower reportedly finished his visit with the Steelers. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Dont’a Hightower reportedly finished his visit with the Steelers. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

It appears Dont’a Hightower’s visit with the Steelers has ended.

According to NFL Media’s Aditi Kinkhabwala, there were positive vibes coming from the Steelers after Hightower’s visit. There’s no deal between the two sides yet, and it appears it is because Hightower is buying time to talk with the Patriots.

This makes sense considering this is how many expected the Patriots to approach things. Bill Belichick typically allows his free agents to test the market, see what offers they get and then return with the offers and allow the Patriots to decide how to proceed.

The linebacker visited with the Jets on Sunday and Monday.

Hightower reportedly is seeking between $10-13 million per year. On Monday, it was reported the Steelers going more than $10 million would be “out of the Steelers’ comfort.”

It seems like the ball is now in Belichick and the Patriots’ court.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Things are heating up with Malcolm Butler and the Saints. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Things are heating up with Malcolm Butler and the Saints. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A lot has gone down with Malcolm Butler over the last week ever since the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore.

Now, it appears more and more likely the 27-year-old will not play for the Patriots in 2017.

Butler will visit the Saints on Thursday and reportedly the two sides will discuss a long-term contract. It’s worth noting this is allowed even though he’s a restricted free agent.

The Patriots placed a first-round tender on him, meaning he’s on the books for $3.91 million in 2017. Also, if a team wanted to place an offer sheet on him, the Patriots would have the right to match and if they didn’t, that team would need to give up its first-round pick.

There are a few scenarios that could play out following Butler’s visit.

— Butler could receive an offer sheet from the Saints, and the Patriots could match it. This seems like the most unlikely of scenarios, but it could happen. New Orleans understands what Butler is worth, and it would likely be out of the Patriots’ price range given they are already paying Gilmore $13 million a season for the next five years.

— Butler could receive an offer sheet from the Patriots, and the Patriots wouldn’t match it. If this were to happen, the Saints would also need to give up their No. 11 overall pick, which seems unlikely to happen. That is an incredible amount of capital (No. 11 pick and a big contract) to give up for Butler.

— Nothing. There’s a chance nothing happens and the Saints are no longer interested in Butler. But, given how far the talks have got, and Butler is physically visiting the team, it seems like something is bound to happen.

— The final scenario seems like the most plausible, as was reported by NFL Media’ Ian Rapoport. The Saints and Butler will discuss a long-term contract, and then the Saints will talk about a trade with the Patriots. In order for a trade to happen, Butler would first need to sign his first-round tender with the Patriots, but if he knows he’s going to be dealt beforehand this doesn’t seem like a problem. Given the relationship between Bill Belichick and Sean Payton, and the steep price (No. 11 overall pick) to sign Butler as a restricted free agent, it would seem the two sides would work out a trade. This would work out for both sides, especially given the Patriots don’t have a first or second-round pick. New Orleans has two first-rounders, a second and two third-rounders in next months draft. Perhaps, the Patriots would start with by trying to get their No. 32 overall pick back, which they gave up for Brandin Cooks, and then if the Saints wouldn’t do that, ask for their second and one of their third-round picks. New Orleans has enough draft picks to make a deal work, and thus the likely road.

At this point, it appears Butler likely will be traded to the Saints and the Patriots will likely get back into the first or second-round.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Ben Roethlisberger (left) and Drew Brees (right) are just two of the outstanding QBs the Pats will face in 2017.</p>
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Tom Brady once again is raving about the Under Armour sleepwear he wears.

In his latest Instagram post, the quarterback posted a picture of him in the sleepwear with the caption: I have never recovered faster or felt better then I do at age 39. I sleep better and I’m more ready then ever to work my ass off day after day after day! Thank you @underarmour for making our dreams at @tb12sports come true. This sleepwear I’ve been wearing for 2+ years is helping me keep the edge on all those 22 years old I’m competing with

Here is the post.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

It isn’t just the Saints interested in Malcolm Butler.

According to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports, the Texans are also interested in the Patriots’ cornerback.

The Texans are reportedly interested in Malcolm Butler. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

The Texans are reportedly interested in Malcolm Butler. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

It isn’t just the Saints interested in Malcolm Butler.

According to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports, the Texans are also interested in the Patriots’ cornerback.

The report makes it seem like Houston isn’t interested in placing an offer sheet on him, rather a straight up trade. They would be willing to give up its second-round pick (No. 57 overall) and then sign him long-term.

It appears the first-round pick given Butler’s first-round tender is too much for the Texans to give up. Their interest makes sense given they lost cornerback AJ Bouye to the Jaguars at the start of free agency.

For a trade to happen, Butler would first need to sign the first-round tender.

Bottom line, it seems like the action is picking up on Butler, as earlier Tuesday it was learned he will be visiting the Saints on Thursday. Things are also trending to Butler playing elsewhere in 2017.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The Saints’ interest in Malcolm Butler is real.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton told the Associated Press Butler is visiting with the team on Thursday.

Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler is the kind of player who should be rewarded. As an undrafted rookie out of the University of West Alabama, he parlayed an impressive preseason into a spot at the bottom of the Patriots’ roster in 2014. Three years later, after a Super Bowl-winning interception and two seasons of playing lockdown defense at cornerback, he wants to cash in. If Bill Belichick acted on sentimentality instead of rationality, he would probably acquiesce to Butler’s wishes.

But that’s not the way he operates, which is why Butler doesn’t have a lucrative long-term contract offer in front of him. Instead, he has a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million. For a player who’s earned just $1.53 million combined over his first three NFL seasons, that’s a nice raise. But it’s a far cry from the $40 million guaranteed the Patriots handed to Stephon Gilmore in free agency last week.

There’s little doubt Butler, 27, deserves to be paid like an elite corner. Last season, he broke up 12 passes and had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer completions. Butler also surrendered fewer than 20 receiving yards seven times.

But unfortunately for Butler, he’s not an unrestricted free agent. That means he doesn’t have any leverage, and the Patriots know it. If Butler refuses to sign his tender by June 15, his salary will fall to $660,000. If he wants to be defiant and skip minicamp, it will cost him more than $80,000. He would be docked $40,000 per day if he were to miss training camp.

It seems cruel for the Patriots to treat Butler this way, especially considering they reportedly lied to him about what they would be willing to pay a cornerback. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe says the Patriots told Butler they don’t want to outlay more than $10 million per season for a corner, but then they went and signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. That averages out to $13 million annually, for those keeping score at home.

Perhaps feeling stung, Butler’s agent is reportedly trying to get his client out of New England. But any team that signs Butler would be forced to surrender a first-round pick, due to his restricted free agent status. It’s unlikely any club would ink Butler to a market value contract and give up significant draft capital.

Maybe an organization that’s enthralled with Butler could justify surrendering its first-round selection if it could sign him to a bargain rate deal. But then the Patriots would have the option of matching it. Or they could let him walk and collect the draft pick, replacing what they traded to the Saints to acquire star wideout Brandin Cooks. Under that scenario, the Patriots would essentially be swapping Butler for Cooks, Gilmore and a first-round pick. (ESPN’s Mike Reiss speculates the Saints and Patriots could pull off a sign-and-trade, with New Orleans sending the Patriots’ first-rounder back to them.)

The Patriots have options. Butler doesn’t. That’s the way the system works, and they’re taking advantage of it. One may assume this callous way of doing business affects the Patriots’ relationships with their players, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Butler himself would still reportedly prefer to stay in New England. The allure of competing for a Super Bowl every season is difficult to pass up.

Giving Butler a big contract now would be putting his interests ahead of the team’s. Belichick and the Patriots seldom do that. Their approach here shouldn’t be shocking to anyone.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
Malcolm Butler is visiting the Saints on Thursday. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler is visiting the Saints on Thursday. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

The Saints’ interest in Malcolm Butler is real.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton told the Associated Press Butler is visiting with the team on Thursday.

Last week it was rumored Butler could be part of a trade involving Brandin Cooks, but he was not included in Friday’s trade.

Butler is a restricted free agent meaning any team that wants him would need to give up a first-round pick given that is the tender the Patriots placed on him, and they would also need to make it a pretty big offer sheet because the Patriots would have the right to match.

It is also possible the Saints and Patriots could work out another trade, one that includes Butler. Keep in mind, the Patriots do not have a first or second-round pick.

The Saints are desperate for help on defense and Butler could be a player to build the defense around.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Malcolm Butler potentially could play for another team in 2017. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler potentially could play for another team in 2017. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

There’s no guarantee Malcolm Butler returns to the Patriots in 2017.

Given the fact he’s a restricted free agent, other teams have a chance to pry him away from New England, but it comes with a price.

First off, the team would give up its highest first-round pick, and also would need to place a pretty high offer sheet on the cornerback since the Patriots would have the right to match any deal.

With that being said, teams who are picking at the top of the first round likely would not be willing to part ways with their selection, and then teams who don’t have a lot of cap space likely wouldn’t be able to afford him.

Therefore, Butler’s potential market isn’t that big. Meanwhile, without a first or second-round pick, the Patriots might want this to happen as it is an easy way for them to get a pick in the first round.

It’s worth noting teams could work out a trade with the Patriots for Butler and then sign him to a long-term deal, but here are a few teams who potentially could place an offer sheet on the 27-year-old.

1. Packers — Green Bay seems like the most logical given its current situation. According to Overthecap.com, the Packers have $29 million in cap space and are selecting 29th in the first round. Since the Packers aren’t selecting until No. 29 overall, it’s not that huge of a price to pay. Then, $29 million in cap space is plenty to make a long-term deal with Butler work. With a loaded offense, Butler could be the piece on defense that gets the Packers over the top in the NFC.

2. Dolphins — The Dolphins are an interesting team to watch. It would be a bold move given they have just over $20 million in cap space and are selecting No. 22 overall. The move could be seen as potentially helping the Patriots out, a division rival, but getting a player like Butler could make their defense that much better and among the best in football. It would be a risky, bold move and sometimes these types of deals need to be made in order to get to the next level.

3. Raiders — Oakland has a ton of cap space at roughly $41 million and are selecting No. 24 overall, so they are capable of making the move. The Raiders are another team where Butler could be that missing piece to take them to the next level. They have a great offense and are loaded up front on defense, but need some help on the back end.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable