FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It’d be easy to be caught up in the money. After all, it’s their life. For players in the NFL, the business side of the sport creates a harsh reality for many.

Malcolm Butler experienced that this past spring.

A restricted free agent, Butler visited one team this offseason – the New Orleans Saints. Because the Patriots placed a first-round tender on the cornerback and the Saints weren’t willing to part with the 11th overall pick, a formal offer never materialized. But even after he signed his $3.91 million tender with the Patriots, rumors swirled that a deal between the Patriots and Saints could still happen.

Six months after being wooed by the Saints, Butler is still in New England without a big contract. This weekend, he’ll return to the city where he spent 48 hours imagining he might play for a different team and coach.

No one would be surprised if Butler returned to Foxborough disappointed this spring. According to the Boston Herald, Butler and the Patriots still don’t see eye-to-eye on a new contract. Money issues aside, teammates around Butler haven’t seen a difference in the cornerback.

“Definitely been the same,” safety Duron Harmon said. “The thing that’s about Malcolm is he’s not really going to let too much distract him from the ultimate goal, and that’s being a good cornerback in the NFL. He’s a talented player, but what happened then, it was so long ago. So much has happened – OTAs, training camp, four preseason games and the first game. I just don’t think anybody worried about that.”

Rumors about Butler and the Saints dominated a two-month span between March and April. At first, ESPN reported that the two teams were engaged in a deal that would’ve sent Butler to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks. Instead, the Patriots sent a first-round pick to the Saints for the receiver.

After the two-day visit to New Orleans, the Boston Herald reported that Butler and the Saints agreed on a four-year contract worth up to $50 million. The only issue was the restricted label. The contact would only happen if the Patriots and Saints could agree on compensation after Butler signed his tender with the Patriots.

“Well, it’s a short visit,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said about meeting Butler. “You know, you try to get as much background as you can on a player. Get an idea of their personality and how they’d fit in, what kind of teammate they’d be. You try to spend as much time as you can trying to get to know the player and how he learns. Regionally, his family is from down around this area so there were a few things we had a chance to visit about aside from football. I think mainly was just trying to get an idea of what kind of teammate the player is and what are his strengths and weaknesses just from a mental standpoint.”

In the month of April, many wondered if the Saints would send back the Patriots’ first-round pick in exchange for the Pro Bowl defensive back. Instead, the draft came and the Saints took cornerback Marshon Lattimore at No. 11. At that moment, Butler saw his new contact disappear. Instead of earning over $10 million per season, he returned to the Patriots for the price of $3.91 million.

There’s always a possibility the Patriots could deal Butler during the season. It wouldn’t be the first time they dealt a Pro Bowl defensive player (Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, etc.). But as long as Butler is in Foxborough, teammates expect to see the same old Malcolm in the locker room and on the field.

“(He’s) the same guy. A humble guy. A humble guy, who works hard and just wants to make the most out of his opportunities,” Harmon said. “I just think from where he’s come from, even before he got to the NFL, it really humbled him and let him know not to take anything for granted and just fight for everything.”

For Butler, he’s fighting for a new contract. A matchup with the Saints serves as a harsh reminder.