Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler met with the New Orleans Saints Thursday, and while at one point it was reported “there is momentum toward finalizing a deal before he leaves,” it appears the visit has ended without one.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Twitter that a “source close to [Butler] said it went well. No deal yet. The sides remain motivated to get it done.”
Meanwhile, the Saints provided only a cryptic update on their official Twitter account.
“When we know you will know You may even know before we know...,” the Saints tweeted at 4:23 p.m. Thursday.
According to The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., Butler met with the Saints’ front office and coaching staff, and had lunch at the cafeteria at the team’s facility with his agents. The Advocate also reported it could be “a long process” for the sides to reach a deal.
Butler, a restricted free agent, is able to meet with teams and solicit offers. If the Saints sign Butler, 27, to an offer sheet, the Patriots have the right to match it. If they decline, they will receive New Orleans’s first-round pick, the 11th overall selection.
Butler’s name has also come up in trade reports between the two teams.
Butler arrived in New Orleans Wednesday night and went to dinner with a handful of Saints players, according to reports.
Josina Anderson of ESPN reported that a source said of the dinner, “The vibe was good. Everybody communicated well. (He) seemed comfortable.”
Butler’s visit with the Saints was his first free agent meeting.
Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed the visit to the Associated Press earlier this week.
Butler has yet to sign the $3.91 million tender the Patriots placed on him.
The Saints already own the Patriots’ first-round pick (No. 32 overall) after shipping receiver Brandin Cooks to New England last week.
Payton and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have a long friendship and working relationship, with the teams holding joint practices the last two seasons. They will face each other in a regular-season game in New Orleans this season.
Another possibility for Butler landing in New Orleans would be for him to sign his New England tender and then have the clubs work out a trade for something other than the No. 11 pick. A possible scenario could be the Patriots recouping the No. 32 pick.
Any trade likely would be contingent on Butler agreeing to a long-term deal with the Saints, as it’s unlikely the team would be willing to give up a pick if Butler could still walk at the end of the 2017 season.