New England Patriots restricted free-agent cornerback Malcolm Butler has scheduled a visit with the New Orleans Saints at the team’s headquarters on Thursday.

Saints Coach Sean Payton confirmed the visit Tuesday, telling The Associated Press he holds Butler in high regard and is eager to meet with him.

If the Saints sign Butler, 27, to an offer, New England has the option to match it. The Patriots could also let Butler go and then receive the Saints’ 11th overall draft pick this year in return.

Butler, a two-year starter, is best known for his goal-line interception of Seattle’s Russell Wilson to preserve the Patriots victory in Super Bowl XLIX. He intercepted four passes last season and broke up 17. He also was credited with 63 solo or assisted tackles, including a sack.

Payton and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick are friends. They not only have had their teams practice together several times during recent preseasons, but also completed a high-profile trade last week that sent receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to New England in exchange for the Patriots’ first round choice – 32nd overall – and a third rounder.

That deal opens the possibility that Butler could be persuaded to sign his restricted free-agent tender with the Patriots and then be traded to New Orleans for assets other than the Saints’ 11th overall choice.

New Orleans entered the offseason looking to bolster the cornerback position of a defense that ranked 27th last season.

The Saints led the NFL in offense in 2016, but missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

n Patriots free-agent linebacker Dont’a Hightower met with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday, the team announced.

He could be a replacement for inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who left the Steelers to accept a two-year, $12 million deal with Miami on Friday.

But Hightower is thought to be out of the Steelers’ price range. He reportedly turned down a contract extension with New England before the season that would have paid him $10 million per season. He already has visited the Jets, and the Patriots have been trying to re-sign him.