The New Orleans Saints are now just a little over a week away from the beginning of the 2017 NFL Draft; and yesterday things really got interesting when it was announced that New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler -- who is at the center of on-going speculation that he is about to be traded to the Saints -- had signed his tendered contract offer from the team.
While doing so, it also increased the likelihood that Butler could be headed to NOLA anytime now between this very moment and the official opening of the Draft next week in Philadelphia.
But a trade for Butler aside, the "fun times" are only just beginning for New Orleans in 2017.
Why is that, you ask?
That's because the possible trade for Butler notwithstanding, the Saints are armed with 5 out of the first 103 picks of the Draft next week, which gives them an opportunity to hopefully select some pretty good football players to further strengthen the current roster, in an effort to reach the Super Bowl one more time before 38-year old QB Drew Brees retires.
But the potential Butler trade will all but certainly take away one of the picks, reportedly the very same one at #32 which the Saints just received from the Patriots a few weeks ago when they traded unhappy WR Brandin Cooks to New England.
There's always the possibility that the Saints could get Butler for less, as in their #42 overall pick in the 2nd Round. But they're dealing with Patriots head coach and defacto GM Bill Belicheck, one of the shrewdest negotiators in the sport of Pro Football.
Which is why the prospect that Belicheck would let Butler go for anything less than the #32 pick isn't a good one.
Some Saints fans were unhappy about that presumption yesterday, since the belief is that Butler is "overrated" in their eyes; a player that they feel overachieved as an undrafted free agent out of the University of West Alabama --- a small Division II school based in rural Livingston, Alabama and a charter member of the Gulf South Conference.
As a college senior during the 2013 season, Butler famously worked weekends at a local Popeyes fast food fried chicken restaurant in his hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi just to make ends meet and so that he could have enough cash to eat his own meals.
Two years later in February of 2015, Butler was making the game-saving interception against the Seattle Seahawks at the goal line to preserve a Patriots victory in Super Bowl 49, and the rest is now a part of NFL history.
But a sizable segment of those unhappy Saints fans are worried that if the team trades for Butler, that he will struggle mightily with being able to cover the much bigger wide receivers of the NFC South division, notably the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones, the Carolina Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans.
And they feel that if that were to happen, then paying Butler anywhere up to potentially $13 million per season (the amount that Butler will likely seek as one of the League's top cornerbacks) in a brand new contract after his current one expires after this season, isn't worth the money that they'll have to spend.
Whether they're actually right about that remains to be seen.
Butler can play just fine in the NFL, and he can do it well. He actually has only what you'd consider decent size and decent speed, and he isn’t even the biggest or fastest defensive back on his team.
But what sets Butler apart from other CB's is his ability to break on passes, and to successfully track the flight of the football while it's in the air.
Additionally, Butler always seems to have a penchant for making his best plays in the biggest and most crucial of moments. Call it a knack for seemingly always "being at the right place, at the right time".
The results are indisputable: 2 World Championships won (2014 and 2016) and a 2-time All-Pro. On top of that, he's also widely considered a Top 10 CB in the League.
And this is from a guy who only just turned 27 years old last month. So, the argument that Butler isn't "worth" the #32 pick is a weak one.
And a very weak one, at that.
The bigger question those unhappy Saints fans should be asking themselves is "WHY are the Saints trading for Butler?"
And the answer is very simple: the Saints are in "win now" mode.
When you have 5 out of the first 103 picks in the Draft --- the same Draft that's said to be the deepest in many years including at the cornerback position --- it's easy to see how the Saints would be tempted to simply just draft one of those top-rated cornerbacks at #32.
But even if the Saints do give up the #32 pick for Butler, it doesn't mean that they won't still go ahead and draft a cornerback with a later pick anyway --- a sentiment echoed yesterday by WWL New Orleans / ESPN college and Pro Football analyst Mike Detillier.
Also keep in mind: rookie cornerbacks very rarely EVER start in their first year, and often it takes several years before they're "up to speed" with being able to successfully defend NFL WR's.
Malcolm Butler himself was one of the few exceptions to that rule when he helped the Patriots win that Super Bowl in what was then his only 2nd NFL season. Now Butler will be playing in what will be his 4th NFL season in 2017 , and in the "prime" of his professional playing career.
If you're the Saints, getting a 2-time World Champion and 2-time All-Pro CB at the peak of his physical abilities, is the biggest "no-brainer" ever.
If they go ahead and "pull the trigger" on this deal, it should come as a sign to every single Saints fan, that this team is all about winning RIGHT NOW.
Sure, the NFL Draft is about building for the future.
But if your goal is to win a World Championship sooner rather than later, then trading for Butler is about as logical of a move that you could ever make.
The Saints organization is on a mission.
They want to "win now" before one of the sport of Pro Football's greatest QB's ever -- Drew Brees -- retires for good.
Now it's time for the Saints fan-base to stop complaining about every little thing, and actually let them accomplish it..........