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Sunday 7: Why Patriots probably will not be getting Saints’ No. 11 overall pick for Malcolm Butler

03.19.17 at 6:00 am ET
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Malcolm Butler is likely headed to New Orleans. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler is likely headed to New Orleans. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

1. With Malcolm Butler visiting the Saints last week as a restricted free agent with a first-round tender, many have speculated the Patriots should force the Saints into signing him as a restricted free agent so they could get the Saints’ No. 11 overall pick. This doesn’t seem likely, and is where a potential trade comes in, which could have already been discussed two weeks ago when the two teams made a deal for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks needed to get traded last weekend because he was due a roster bonus last Monday. While Butler was rumored to be part of the deal, he ultimately wasn’t. This could have been because he didn’t sign his first-round tender. It’s quite possible the two teams agreed on a trade involving Butler and Cooks, but could only include the Cooks portion last weekend because the Saints needed to meet and work out a long-term deal with Butler before that part of the deal is executed. Once a long-term agreement happens, Butler would sign his tender and the Patriots could send him to the Saints and get back their first-round pick. That would mean in the end the Patriots would get Cooks and the Saints’ fourth-round pick in exchange for Butler and the Saints’ third-round pick. Not a bad deal at all for both sides. Think of if this way: Does a deal with the Saints getting Butler and the Patriots’ first and third-round picks in exchange for Cooks, their No.11 overall pick and a fourth-round pick make sense? No, they would be getting robbed. Bottom line, if the Patriots don’t in fact get the No. 11 overall pick from the Saints for Butler, note the Cooks trade and realize the two sides could have already negotiated a Cooks for Butler trade and pick swap, and the Patriots’ first-round pick last weekend could have been just a place-holder.

2. It cannot be stated how important it was for the Patriots to re-sign Dont’a Hightower. Hightower is the undisputed leader of the defense and who the unit looks to most. The 27-year-old isn’t much of a “ra-ra” leader, but when something needs to be said, he says it and gets the full attention of the team. This is what makes him such a great leader. After the Jamie Collins trade this past season, Hightower was the one leading the way in keeping the unit together and getting back on track after the poor showing against Seattle in the game immediately following the trade. Also, look at who is behind Hightower on the depth chart: Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Jonathan Freeny. Usually the Patriots have internal fallback options in place for free agents in case they leave, but in the case of Hightower they really didn’t, which was another major reason why it was imperative he returned in 2017.

3. One of the takeaways from Duron Harmon’s conference call on Friday was him noting he was going to experiment playing a couple of pounds heavier, going up from 205 pounds to 207 or 208 during OTAs and minicamp. “I would say the run area is a key [area] where I feel that I can grow in,” he said. “My tackling could be a little bit more aggressive and I think that’s going to come with putting on a little bit more weight, being able to bang down there. So I think that area is key, and could be an area I could grow a lot in, I believe so.” This could be a sign the team might use him more in a Patrick Chung role, where Chung plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is a major player in stopping the run.

4. While the Patriots are done with big moves following Hightower’s re-signing, there’s still more to be done. Even though the team brought in running back Rex Burkhead, there’s still a need for a No. 1 running back who can run in between the tackles on first and second down to wear out defenses. LeGarrette Blount remains unsigned and seems like a good option on a one-year deal. Also, with defensive ends Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard departing and only Kony Ealy joining the team thus far, look for another veteran to be brought in to be part of the rotation at defensive end. Another position to watch is cornerback. A veteran could be brought in to compete with Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman. A lot of the time these small moves get unnoticed during the offseason, but they could show up as being very important come October and November.

5. Along the lines of the team not being done with adding players via free agency, there are a couple of players who could see their current 2017 contracts get redone for a lesser salary. Danny Amendola is currently on the books for a cap hit of just under $8 million, which certainly won’t stand. If Amendola wants to return to the team, he will need to rework his deal, which he’s reportedly willing to do. Another player to keep an eye on is Nate Solder. The left tackle has the second-highest cap hit on the team of just over $11 million. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so perhaps the Patriots sign him to extension now and have that serve as a way to lower his cap hit for the upcoming season.

6. According to Miguel Benzan (@Patscap), the Patriots have just over $26 million in cap space left for 2017. While this says they have a lot of money to spend, it’s worth looking ahead to 2018 and taking some things into consideration. Tom Brady’s cap hit goes from $14 million this year to $22 million next year, Rob Gronkowski’s goes from $6.75 million to $11 million and if the Patriots potentially place the franchise tag on Jimmy Garoppolo, his could go from just over $1 million to near $20 million. Obviously deals can be re-worked to manipulate the cap, but it is worth noting the dramatic increases next season and should be considered when it comes to spending the rest of the offseason. From this perspective, this is a major reason why the Patriots cannot sign Butler to an extension he wants.

7. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell will be back in New England this week promoting his children’s book “The Magician’s Hat.” He is scheduled to visit 12 schools all across the region where he wants to share his message of how important reading is to children pursuing their dreams. He will read excerpts from his book, and each child will receive a copy. For more information, visit www.readwithmalcolm.com.

Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Duron Harmon, Malcolm Butler, Malcolm Mitchell

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