Nineteen New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 18. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one.
Up next: safety Devin McCourty.
2019 STATS: five interceptions, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery, 58 tackles
LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: Solid
ANALYSIS: The Patriots have expressed their desire to pick up cornerback — and Devin’s twin — Jason McCourty’s contract option next season. That should be a good sign for Devin McCourty’s return. The fact that free agency begins in just over a week and McCourty remains unsigned, however, might not be a great sign.
McCourty has spent his entire 10-year career with the Patriots since being drafted in the first round out of Rutgers in 2010. He’s a nine-time captain, and his ability to communicate from safety makes the Patriots’ complex defense click. He’s shown no signs of slowing down despite being 32 years old and had one of his most productive seasons in 2019.
He also brings versatility to the Patriots’ defense. His primary role is as a single-high safety, but he also can play strong safety, in the slot and at cornerback.
Other teams likely will be in the McCourty market, however. The Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins have former Patriots defensive assistants as head coaches in Matt Patricia and Brian Flores, respectively. The New York Giants also could make a push. The Giants’ head coach is former Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge. McCourty is a native of New Jersey. His mother still lives in the area.
If McCourty departs, the Patriots could promote Duron Harmon to being a full-time starter. They also could move slot defensive back Jonathan Jones to safety. Jones has played cornerback and safety over the past two seasons. The Patriots have Patrick Chung, Terrence Brooks, Malik Gant, Obi Melifonwu and Adarius Pickett under contract at safety for next season. They’ve experimented with playing Jason McCourty at safety, as well.
It would be bizarre to see Devin McCourty in another uniform. The Patriots could allow him to test the market once free agency begins, forcing him to pick between starting over anew with a different team or returning to the Patriots to play with his twin brother.
We still think the most likely outcome is McCourty’s return to New England, but it’s no sure thing.
Previously: Adam Butler | Jermaine Eluemunor | Marshall Newhouse | James Ferentz | Phillip Dorsett | Shilique Calhoun | Nate Ebner | Nick Folk | Elandon Roberts | Danny Shelton | Matthew Slater | Ted Karras | Jamie Collins | Kyle Van Noy