Malcolm Butler will come at a steep price if the New Orleans Saints want to acquire him.
"If Saints want Butler, it would be for their pick, 11th overall. You decide if that trade happens," Michael Lombardi tweeted on Sunday. Lombardi is a former Patriots assistant and current NFL analyst for The Ringer.
Some thought the Saints would try to trade for Butler with the 32nd-overall pick, which the Patriots sent to New Orleans in the trade for Brandin Cooks. However, Butler is a restricted free agent, and has yet to sign his first-round franchise tender, which means the Patriots cannot include him in trade talks, per NFL rules. The Saints will have to place an offer sheet on Butler. If the Patriots elect not to match that offer, Butler would go to New Orleans and the Saints would send their first round pick, the No. 11 selection, to New England.
Butler was in New Orleans visiting the Saints last week, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. They were negotiating a potential contract.
Butler, a three-year veteran, has not missed a game in the last two NFL seasons. In 2016, he had 63 tackles, 17 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one sack.
The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week.
Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.
Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons.
Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.
Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England.
In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter.
Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well.
The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season.
Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.