How will the Patriots replace Devin McCourty? At this stage, that’s hard to predict.
McCourty’s retirement last Friday left New England without an obvious on-field successor for its longtime starting free safety. It remains to be seen whether the Patriots will find that player on their own roster, in veteran free agency or through the 2023 NFL Draft.
McCourty does, however, have an idea of how the Patriots can fill the sizable leadership void his departure will create.
During an interview Monday with “Up & Adams” on FanDuel TV, McCourty listed three players — in addition to fellow captains Matthew Slater, Mac Jones, David Andrews, Deatrich Wise and Ja’Whaun Bentley — he expects to become more active leaders during the 2023 season.
“I think the captains are obvious, but I think (there are) other guys,” McCourty told host Kay Adams. “Depending on what happens with Jakobi Meyers and Jonathan Jones, to me (they’re) two guys that have a ton of leadership qualities. I think they remind me of myself. And I’ll throw Kyle Dugger in there, as well.”
Dugger has a year remaining on his rookie contract, and Jones avoided free agency by signing a new two-year deal on Monday. Meyers, though, is a threat to leave this offseason, as he’s the best free agent receiver available and could price himself out of New England.
But if Meyers re-signs, McCourty sees the wideout taking on a more vocal leadership role along with Jones, who’s now the Patriots’ longest-tenured defensive player, and Dugger, who’s coming off a terrific 2022 season.
McCourty has spoken highly of all three players in the past, saying late this season that Meyers was “as close as someone can be to being a team captain.”
“You have leadership qualities, but there’s leaders all around you, so you don’t need to do that,” McCourty, a team captain in each of his final 12 seasons, told Adams. “Like, it doesn’t make sense for you to talk after either I talk or Slate talks. But I think those guys will now look around and be like, ‘All right, we’ve got to replace the energy, the passion that Dev had when he spoke to the team,’ and I think those are some guys that’ll step up depending on how free agency works out.
“If J-Jones and Jakobi are gone, then I think Dugg will look around and say even more like, ‘Hey, I know I’m quiet, but these guys need me. I know the process. If not me, then who?’ So I expect some of those younger guys that are homegrown to really step up.”