Bill Belichick answered most of the questions he faced Monday morning with vague generalities.
But when a reporter asked about the Patriots re-signing cornerback Jonathan Jones, New England’s head coach deviated from his tight-lipped schtick.
Belichick raved about Jones, who will return for an eighth season with the Patriots after signing a new two-year contract earlier this month.
“That was a big one,” Belichick told reporters at the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix. “Especially with Devin (McCourty retiring), (Jones) gives us a lot of leadership presence back there. He’s been a great player for us for a long time in a lot of different roles, including the kicking game, which is where he started.
“He epitomizes what we want in a Patriot player. It’s great to have him.”
One of Jones’ greatest assets is his versatility. Primarily a slot cornerback for his first six seasons, he became one of New England’s starting outside corners in 2022 and — outside of a few difficult matchups against Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs — played well in that role. Jones also has some NFL experience at free safety, so he could factor into the Patriots’ plan to replace McCourty, their longtime starter at that spot.
Jones, who turns 30 in September, re-signed on the opening day of the NFL’s legal tampering period, before the official start of free agency.
“Like, if it made sense, as far as contract-wise for me, the Patriots were just always the place to be,” he told NESN.com last week. “It’s what I know. It adds some consistency, and not a lot of guys get to stay in the same system for eight or nine years. So, God willing, I’ll finish out this two-year deal and that’ll be nine years in the same place. That’s not common. So, just to even have that opportunity was definitely a big driving force for that.”
With the Patriots also re-signing Jabrill Peppers, tendering Myles Bryant and keeping Jalen Mills on a reworked contract, they’re set to return their entire secondary from last season, sans McCourty. New England could look to add additional cornerbacks and/or safeties in the later stages of free agency or in next month’s 2023 NFL Draft.