The Saints spent Thursday courting restricted free agent Malcolm Butler.

The gathering came and went without a deal for the Patriots cornerback, but New Orleans coach Sean Payton made it clear on Friday that he was impressed with the 27-year-old defender.

“He’s a sharp, sharp kid,” Payton told KLSD-AM in San Diego.


NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that the meeting “went well,” leaving both sides “motivated to get (a deal) done” for Butler, who was tagged by New England with a first-round tender.

Payton went on to praise Butler for the “amazing” career he’s enjoyed over his first three NFL campaigns, a string of play that included serving as the unquestioned hero of Super Bowl XLIX.

“The first three years he’s had in this league, he’s had a tremendous amount of success, winning two Super Bowls in three years and been a big part of a team that’s accomplished a lot,” Payton said. “So I’d say he’s humble, but when you watch the tape, he plays with a chip on his shoulder. We practiced with New England now in that three-year timeframe twice. So there’s a lot of additional practice tape that we have a chance to look closely at and I’m sure (Patriots coach) Bill (Belichick) and his staff (did) the same … when evaluating (wideout Brandin) Cooks.”

The Patriots thought enough of Cooks to organize a trade with the Saints, shipping the 32nd-overall pick and New England’s third-rounder to New Orleans in return for the pass-catcher.

Plenty of people around the NFL wondered if Butler might be part of that deal. Instead, the Patriots and Saints could be close to settling on their second trade of the offseason if both teams can agree to terms on moving Butler from New England to The Big Easy.

We’ll find out soon enough what the Saints are willing to give up for one of the game’s more promising young cornerbacks.

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