Consider Devin McCourty’s new five-year, $47.5 million contract a promotion.
With the boost in pay grade comes added responsibility and versatility for the Rutgers product. McCourty said in early June he’d prefer to stay at free safety this season, but recently he’s been shuffled around the secondary.
McCourty recently has shared the field during team drills with safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown, and Thursday’s joint practices with the New Orleans Saints saw the sixth-year pro spend individual drills with cornerbacks, according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick put some context behind McCourty’s recent adaptability before practice Thursday.
“Devin’s been out here every day. He’s worked hard,” Belichick said. “He gives us a lot of leadership and a lot of versatility on our defense. He’s done a good job. We’ll try to give a lot of players, work them in different roles, so when we get to those, which we eventually will during the season, that they will at least have some background in it.”
McCourty spent his first 2 1/2 seasons in the NFL at cornerback before switching to safety in Week 7 of the 2012 season. He’s almost exclusively played safety over the past two seasons, becoming one of the league’s elite players at the position, but the Patriots experienced extreme turnover at cornerback this offseason, losing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency and releasing Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard.
That has left Butler and Logan Ryan as the lone holdovers from the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX-winning secondary. The Patriots have brought in veterans Brown, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain, as well as rookie Darryl Roberts, to varying degrees of success in training camp.
Perhaps Belichick is merely giving McCourty experience all around the secondary in case of injuries during the 2015 season, or maybe he views McCourty, Harmon and Chung as three of the Patriots’ best five defensive backs, and he’s trying to find a way to have them all share the field.
McCourty likely will keep moving around the Patriots’ defensive backfield, and we won’t know Belichick’s overarching plan until Sept. 10, when the Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL season opener.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images
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