Patriots Mailbag: Why Trading For Jason McCourty Was So Smart


March 16, 2018

Inhabitants of Patriot Nation were having a hard time dealing with New England’s inactivity through the first three days of free agency.

But after re-signing Rex Burkhead, trading for Jason McCourty and hosting a slew of free agents, they seem to have calmed down a bit.

The brattiness had subsided by the time Patriots fans were prompted to send in mailbag questions.

Let’s get into it.

Do you see the patriots looking into bringing anybody in to replace solder?
— @HunterM94424025
Well, I would certainly hope so, since their current offensive tackle depth chart contains Marcus Cannon, a right tackle, Cole Croston, who played eight offensive snaps last season, Antonio Garcia, who spent all of 2017 on the non-football illness list with blood clots in his lungs, and Andrew Jelks, who hasn’t played since 2014 and spent all of 2017 on the non-football injury list.

Personally, I would sign either LaAdrian Waddle or Cameron Fleming (not both) and select an offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. I might even consider moving up in the first round for Texas’ Connor Williams or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. Left tackle is pretty darn important.

Then the Patriots would have either Waddle or Fleming as insurance if Garcia or the rookie aren’t ready to start right away.

The Patriots have been criticized for failing to plan ahead at left tackle. They tried when they selected Garcia in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. They couldn’t predict he’d have blood clots in his lungs or that he’d weigh just 260 pounds by January. So, now they have to adjust on the fly, and offensive tackle moves up the list of draft needs to No. 1.

Why trade for mccourty when he was likely to be cut? Couldn?t they have gotten a better contract? Or perhaps devin discussed a contract restructure with him?
— @rlbyrne29
There are plenty of reasons. The best reason to trade for McCourty, rather than wait for him to be cut, is to make sure you get the player. The Patriots probably would have signed McCourty if he was cut. But what if another team gave him a guaranteed role and bigger contract?

Another reason is McCourty’s contract is incredibly team-friendly. They have him for less than $3 million in 2018 with no guaranteed money. If he hit the open market, there’s a good chance he would have received a higher offer from a cornerback-needy team.

Finally, it allows the Patriots to bring him in with no guaranteed money. If McCourty hit the open market, and the Patriots signed him to a contract, there would be some sort of signing bonus or guarantee included in the deal. So, instead, the Patriots moved down 14 spots in the 2018 draft from No. 205 overall to No. 219 overall to get a potential starter on a measly contract with no risk involved. That’s very smart.

Is there some reason why Marcus Cannon can’t play LT? We desperately need a LT and everyone seems to ignore that we have a great tackle already in house.
— @Patriots_karma
I’m going to make an odd comparison with Marcus Cannon that might not make sense to some of the younger readers. Cannon is a bit like an analog TV antenna. It used to take forever to get the antenna in the perfect position for a station to be clear. When you finally got it, you moved your hand away slowly and basically tiptoed away from the TV to make sure NOTHING moved, so the channel would continue to come through fuzz and snow free.

Cannon is a bit like that. Cannon was basically Jordan Richards through the first several years of his career. Patriots fans couldn’t stand him. He couldn’t play tackle or guard. Then something clicked. And now, if I were the Patriots, I would continue to tiptoe around him to make sure nothing changes. If the Patriots started to try to fiddle with that antenna again, the picture might never come through clear again.

Make sense?

The Patriots also would be downgrading two positions on their offensive line rather than just left tackle. Cannon’s replacement wouldn’t be as good at right tackle as Cannon, and Cannon wouldn’t be as good at left tackle as Solder. So, even though left tackle is the most important position on the line, you might as well just have one weak spot rather than two.

Cannon’s also played left tackle at times during his career, and it’s never gone well. He’s probably not a good enough athlete to match up with the faster right defensive ends and protect Tom Brady’s blind side. That’s not to say Fleming or Waddle are elite athletes either, but Cannon is very good at right tackle who hasn’t been very good at left tackle throughout his career.

There is the argument that Cannon hasn’t played left tackle since he became very good at right tackle. Cannon’s game improved when he arrived at Gillette Stadium in better shape. Would he be better now? Maybe. But could the Patriots mess up that pesky antenna? Also maybe.

@DougKyed With J McCourty now joining the team, do we still go after anyone else in FA/Draft DB wise (Honey Badger for example)? I assume we don’t use a early round pick for a CB anymore..or do we? Basically not sure if Jason is “good” or not enough to chase some1 else.
— @_cgutierrez
I think McCourty is good enough that the Patriots don’t need to actively pursue another cornerback for the 2018 season. I think the Patriots are best off with Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty as the No. 1 and 2 with Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones and Patrick Chung sharing the No. 3 role.

I also don’t think the trade should preclude the Patriots from pursuing Mathieu if the price is right, however. Mathieu plays the slot and safety. Gilmore and McCourty play outside. The Patriots’ secondary would be much better if they could upgrade from Rowe, Jones and Jones to Mathieu.

What do you think patriots do to address defensive line / edge rusher
— @jamessheehan199
That’s a really good question. Adrian Clayborn reportedly is taking a visit Friday. If he signed, he would be slotted into the Patriots’ starting right defensive end spot, while Trey Flowers would continue playing on the left side. Clayborn probably won’t be putting up 15-sack seasons in New England, but he’s a strong overall defender who’s good against the run and pass. He also could kick inside and rush from defensive tackle.

I don’t know where they turn if Clayborn doesn’t sign. The Patriots currently would enter the season with Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers and Eric Lee as front-runners to rush the passer opposite Flowers. Wise and Rivers clearly have upside, but the Patriots should look to select a pass rusher early in the draft.

They also have linebackers, like Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi and Kyle Van Noy, who can rush the passer.

Terrelle Pryor to Patriots? #MailDoug
— @adamdelong11
Doubtful. The Patriots were interested in trading for him at one point, but it seems like they got turned off after bringing him in for a free-agent visit when he was made available.

Is there a chance the tackle spot evolves the way running back did in 2015 post-Blount. Obviously not expecting the same impact Dion Lewis had, but could Croston or Jelks surprise as a competitive starter at left or right tackle?
— @BryanThiel_88
I mean, it’s possible. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

Croston is big and athletic. His pro day 40-yard dash a year ago wasn’t speedy, but he impressed in the 3-cone, short shuttle, broad jump and vertical. He might have the athleticism to play left tackle, but he also was an undrafted free agent. Counting on him is not wise.

Jelks was a starting left tackle in the SEC as a sophomore then missed two straight years with torn ACLs. He sat out last year too. He has upside, but he also hasn’t played football for a very long time.

@DougKyed any chance we make a run at Suh Doug.?
— @_justConcur
There’s a chance, but I suspect Ndamukong Suh will command more money than the Patriots are willing to pay him. The Patriots do have some cap room after letting Nate Solder walk, though.

Do you think the Pats go with Riley McCarron or try to get Quinn/Berrios/Coutee to be the Dola replacement/Edelman understudy? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
I’m kind of intrigued to see Riley McCarron during OTAs, minicamp and training camp this season. It would be crazy if the Patriots found another slot receiver through the undrafted route. McCarron is a great athlete. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash with a 6.59-second 3-cone, 4.16-second short shuttle, 40.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump. His 40, vertical, broad jump and 3-cone were better than Julian Edelman’s. Most slot receivers don’t run 4.4 40s.

Let’s go rapid fire.

After the first few days of free agency, what would YOU do in the draft
— @ollycurtisUC
Offensive tackle in the first round, then a defensive end, quarterback and linebacker.

Will Malcolm Mitchell play game 1 of the 2018 season?
— @Taghkanic
The over/under is .5 games. I guess I’d take the over.

Why arent more people talking about just getting a 2nd for jimmy g? Sashi brown said they offered more and I’m sure niners would have paid more. Even conditional pick?
— @fantasycampbell
Oh, they are.

Longhair or shorthair cats? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
Shorthair. Longhaired cats all look fat.

Which FA RB benefits NE the most. Blount, Vereen, or Woody
— @Captmike24
LeGarrette Blount.

Ever think of coming up with a catch phrase? Yes, what would it be?
— @rankjas
Among my friends, my catchphrase is probably, “Uh, I don’t like that.” It’s a long story.

How confused will teams now be when they see two mc courtys on the field? #MailDoug
— @vladujic
I mean, they’ll be wearing helmets and different numbers, so probably not very?

Any thoughts on LBs?
— @Jfoley45
A lot of people are trying to lose them these days.

Are Jason and Devin McCourty related?
— @ChrisNothing
Distant twins.

Thumbnail photo via George Walker IV/ The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK
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