General manager Mickey Loomis didn't offer much insight Tuesday into the New Orleans Saints' pursuit of cornerback Malcolm Butler. But he did seem to acknowledge that the Saints are still interested in the New England Patriots' restricted free-agent cornerback.
"We're kicking the tires, I guess is the best way to describe that," Loomis told the New Orleans Advocate and NOLA.com during a break in the NFL meetings in Arizona. "We'll see how that process works."
Loomis declined to say whether the Saints are willing to sacrifice the No. 11 pick in the draft (which would be required if they sign Butler to a contract tender) or if the Saints are only interested in Butler if they can work out a trade with the Patriots for a lesser pick.
Butler visited the Saints two weeks ago and can sign a contract tender with them at any time. The Patriots would then have five days to either match that offer or take the Saints' No. 11 pick as compensation.
It's possible the Saints and Patriots could work out a trade with different compensation. But the only way such a trade can happen is if Butler signs his RFA tender with the Patriots first.
It's unclear what has been holding up the process. Perhaps Butler and the Saints have not yet agreed on a long-term contract proposal. But so far all sides have remained mostly mum on the details.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday that the team does not intend to trade Butler, and he hopes Butler decides to remain in New England.
Among other topics Loomis touched on Tuesday:
Loomis said there was no addition by subtraction element to the Saints' decision to trade receiver Brandin Cooks to New England, reiterating that the Saints did it to try and improve their defense. Loomis pointed out that the Saints have been able to thrive on offense for more than a decade, despite "interchangeable" parts surrounding coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees. "Look, before we had Jimmy Graham, we had a No. 1 offense. Then we had Jimmy Graham and we had a No. 1 offense. … And after that, we had a No. 1 offense. The goal here is to take offensive assets and position them to improve ourselves."
Loomis said the Saints feel good about the flurry of moves they have made so far in free agency -- but he acknowledged that cornerback and pass-rusher remain "musts."
Loomis said the roles of new middle linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te'o, among others at the now-crowded position, will be decided on the field in organized team activities and training camp. "I think we view them as having versatility," Loomis said. "I think the goal here is to improve our quality and improve our depth."