Mazz: 'It's not about the guys on the field'


Mazz: 'It's not about the guys on the field'

Tony Massarotti makes it pretty clear: As bad as the replacement officials are on the field, it's the guys off the field -- the owners and the NFL -- who deserve the blame.

Good point, Mazz. But those guys aren't showing themselves much right now. If they were, fans would probably have a few choice words for them too.

But Mike Felger talks about the ridiculousness in not being on the same page on the final play of the Monday Night Football game. Did they rule Seattle scored touchdown initially?

Payton: I know we're not signing Butler to an offer sheet, giving up No. 11 overall

Payton: I know we're not signing Butler to an offer sheet, giving up No. 11 overall

PHOENIX -- Sean Payton was as clear as the desert sky in springtime: The Saints won't be signing Malcolm Butler to an offer sheet and relinquishing their No. 11 overall selection to the Patriots. 

New Orleans has significant interest in Butler, who visited the team's facilities earlier this month, but giving up a draft choice in the top half of the first round would be too much to give up in order to get the 27-year-old corner in return. 

EX-PATS PODCAST: Jerod Mayo's advice to Malcolm Butler -- get insurance!

Because Butler is a restricted free agent who has been given a first-round tender by New England, any offer sheet he signs would require his new team to provide its first-round draft pick to the Patriots. 

"We had a chance to visit with him," Payton said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore. "Currently, my understanding, he hasn't signed his tender and so it's just that. We can sign him to an offer sheet, but I don't think we're gonna do that and give up the 11th pick. In fact I know we're not going to do that. It is what it is right now."

The implication, then, is that if the Saints are going to acquire Butler, it would be via trade. But because Butler hasn't signed his tender with the Patriots and is not on the roster, Bill Belichick and his front office can't engage in trade talks with other clubs concerning the hero of Super Bowl XLIX. 

"Yeah," Payton said. "That would just be speculation though . . . Obviously we can't have any discussions with New England because New England hasn't signed the player."

Butler has the ability to hear from other clubs and sign an offer sheet until April 21. After that, if he hasn't signed an offer sheet, he'll be left with little choice other than to sign his $3.91 million tender with the Patriots. If he doesn't sign his tender by mid-June, the Patriots could cut his 2017 salary to less than $1 million. 

If Butler signs his tender, the Patriots will find themselves in a win-win situation. Either they'll have a top-tier corner play for them at an incredibly affordable rate, or they'll have the ability to trade Butler if they find a deal worth executing. 

Though the Saints may be unwilling to part with No. 11 overall, Payton did not say he was resigned to making a pick at No. 32 overall with the pick they received from the Patriots in the Brandin Cooks trade. The Saints have five draft selections in the top 103 this year, giving them the flexibility to either use their picks or part with them in a trade that makes sense.

Payton acknowledged that he had a good meeting with Butler. The trip to New Orleans has been Butler's only reported visit at this time. 

"For us it was a chance to meet him," Payton said, "put him on the board, find out how much football he knows. He's from Mississippi. I think it was a good step . . . He's a guy we thought enough of in this process. We'll see, though. I think it might take a bit of time."

Payton says Cooks wasn't dealt to Patriots because he was disgruntled


Payton says Cooks wasn't dealt to Patriots because he was disgruntled

PHOENIX -- Sean Payton went out of his way to tell Brandin Cooks that the Saints weren't looking to trade him. Then when the Patriots offered their pick at the bottom of the first round of this year's draft, there was a change of heart. 

The Saints ended up dealing their dynamic 23-year-old wideout and a fourth-round pick to New England for the No. 32 overall pick and a third-rounder.

"We spoke to a few teams, and we weren't in a position where we felt like we gotta make this trade or else," Payton said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday morning. "It was the opposite actually. I had a couple conversations with him, saying, 'This . . . isn't going to happen. We're not interested in just looking to do this.'

"But when we were able to do a deal with New England, which involved a first-round pick, third-round pick, we felt that was significant. We did feel like it was a way to help our team, particularly our defense. Those picks specifically, you don't know how the draft falls, but they're getting a real good player and someone that was obviously good for us."

Cooks has performed as one of the most productive players at his position since joining the Saints as their first-round pick in 2014, and he is one of just three players to record 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, joining Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.

There have been, however, some hints that Cooks was unhappy during his time in New Orleans -- particularly recently. On a conference call with Patriots reporters following the trade, he indicated that he hoped he'd be able to do things in Josh McDaniels' offense that he wasn't able to do in Payton's. And after a blowout win over the Rams last year, during which Cooks didn't see a single target, he said, "Closed mouths don't get fed."

Still, Payton said Cooks wasn't dealt because he was disgruntled.

"For sure, he wasn't a player that we went out and said, 'Hey, we're shopping this player.' But when someone calls on a player you obviously take the call and listen to what they have to say," Payton explained. "I've said this a number of times: Working with him, he's not a kid, but he's fantastic in regards to his approach. Never at any time was he upset or unhappy.

"I think a little bit of last season, after [the Rams] game, his agent, you know, was a little disappointed, if you will. He didn't have the produciton in the game. Mind you, we had just finished scoring 49 points and beating a team. But to Brandin's credit, he was smart enough to see the season he was having. So he signed and got with another agent when this offseason began."

Though Payton clearly was happy with the return the Saints received for Cooks, he indicated that he was not necessarily resigned to picking at No. 32. Perhaps it could become available in a trade.

"It'd be hard to say, well we're just going to sit at No. 32," Payton said. "You do have some flexibility. I think, overall, having five picks in the first 103 picks provides that flexibility as well where you can certainly move up or move back. But we felt like there was some depth at certain positions in this draft, and we were trying to get a little fire power or ammo in those first 100, 103 picks was important."