First reported by ESPN's Diana Russini, the Patriots received wide receiver Brandin Cooks and New Orleans' fourth-round 2017 NFL Draft pick (No. 118) in exchange for their first-round pick (No. 32) and third-round selection (No. 103). The diminutive receiver torched defenses for 17 touchdowns and more than 2,300 yards the last two seasons, but also expressed displeasure with the team after failing to earn a target in a Week 12 blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams. The Saints traded up to draft Cooks with the 20th pick of the 2014 draft.
Butler is a restricted free agent who New England tendered at $3.91 million earlier this week. But as of now, New England still has the Super Bowl XLIX hero on its roster. One question will be which pick they'll be able to make in the 4th round, with the National Football League set to strip New England of a selection due to DeflateGate.
It likely wouldn't be a swap of players, as the Saints have said they would like to get a draft pick, or more in return for the receiver.
In less than 12 hours Friday, the professional and college sports landscape changed dramatically in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, respectively. New England also gets the Saints fourth round pick (118th overall) in the deal. Butler, 27, has until April 21 to sign a deal with another team and the Patriots can match the deal within five days.
Speculation Thursday was that the Patriots could include star cornerback Malcolm Butler in a deal for Cooks.More news: President Assad: Syrian troops 'very close' to Islamic State stronghold
But the No. 32 pick in the draft is still a valuable commodity - and it now adds to a pretty good collection of resources the Saints have this offseason, which started with almost $30 million in salary-cap space.
That might end up a moot point considering he's in the final year of his rookie contract, leaving the Patriots with a decision of whether to pick up his fifth-year option after his first and only season with the team. No matter how the situation plays out, the relative merits of this trade will certainly be discussed for a long time.
As Tom Brady officially gets over the hill with his 40th birthday in August, he'll have his best receiving corps in years.