ESPN believes parting ways with a pillar of the franchise this offseason could be in the Patriots’ best interest.
No, not Tom Brady.
The Worldwide Leader recently tasked all 32 of its NFL reporters to propose a “daring offseason move” for the respective teams they cover. For the Patriots, Mike Reiss suggests cutting ties with three-time Super Bowl champion Devin McCourty in order to execute an infusion of youth at the safety position.
“Denver Broncos safety (Justin) Simmons, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, is an ascending star and would be close to a household name if the Broncos had been any good recently,” Reiss wrote. “Not only can Simmons fill in for McCourty as a deep-middle safety for the Patriots, he can move all around the back end to provide Bill Belichick with yet another chess piece. Simmons snagged four interceptions last season in addition to 15 passes defended.
“Adding Simmons’ star power and versatility to a stacked cornerback group that thrives in press-man coverage could be the key to New England’s defense maintaining its 2019 form. While Simmons will surely come with a hefty price tag, the Patriots should have no reservations about throwing money around, assuming quarterback Tom Brady comes back for one or two more seasons.”
Given McCourty will turn 33 roughly a month before the start of the 2020 season, this very well could be his last opportunity to cash in. Although he’s been the consummate Patriot dating back to his rookie season in 2010, New England rarely hands out lifetime achievement awards. It typically is Bill Belichick’s M.O. to cut bait with a player a year or two early as opposed to a year or two late.
That said, reeling in Simmons could be a steep challenge for the Patriots, which might motivate the franchise to use an early-round pick on a safety.