The Patriots received a stroke of luck yesterday when a group of cornerbacks closed in on contracts. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson grabbed an $8.5 million per season deal to remain in Houston, while the Chargers and Eagles are expected to sign Brandon Flowers and Byron Maxwell, respectively. The last two haven't signed yet, but all signs are pointing to them coming off the market shortly.
For whatever reason, teams are functioning as if Darrelle Revis isn't a viable option on the open market, which matches the reports of ESPN's Adam Schefter who believes Revis will sign with either the Patriots or the Jets. The belief is that New York will have to blow New England's offer away to take the All Pro cornerback, while the Patriots are confident that they can keep him around.
This leaves safety Devin McCourty as the most important remaining free agent.
There have been conflicting reports over whether or not the Colts are actually pursuing the safety, while the Eagles still have him at the top of their list alongside cornerback Byron Maxwell. McCourty should be a top target for every team in the league, but the whispers for other teams haven't surfaced. Barring a Godfather offer from a bottom rung team, Philadelphia remains a top player for McCourty's services.
It's not out of reason for the Patriots to pony up the cash for a top tier cornerback and safety. Per Spotrac's figures, a team has paid for a top 6 cornerback and safety pair each season since 2008.
08 PHI Dawk/Samuel 09 DEN Dawk/Champ 10 IND Bethea/Hayden 11 DEN Dawk/Champ 12 NYG Rolle/Webster 13 TB Goldson/Revis 14 TEN Griffin/McCourty— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) March 8, 2015
The results have varied, with just three of the seven teams reaching the playoffs. The past two teams who have paid finished the season at the bottom of their division, but they also didn't have a viable offense.
The Patriots defense would take a big hit if either Revis or McCourty left. While they're expected to retain Revis, they need to ensure they can keep McCourty.
ESPN's Mike Reiss threw out the $8 million mark as New England's tipping point as the Patriots won't want to extend too far beyond that point. $8 million matches Eric Weddle as the 5th highest paid safety in the league. An $8.5 million per season mark would rank as the 3rd highest level and would represent a middle ground between the $8 million mark and the $9 million APY Jairus Byrd received from the Saints last off-season.
Of course a team could extend to $10 million, but from what we've seen out of Philadelphia this off-season, they're not interested in overpaying for a player. They've cut ties with a lot of veterans to free up cap space, they've shipped away running back LeSean McCoy, and they've put their foot down at $9 million with receiver Jeremy Maclin who has been looking for $11 million.
Since the top of the safety market is $10 million APY for Earl Thomas, it seems as if that will be the upper limit. We've already seen a player take $2 million less per season to stay with the Packers and McCourty has shown a desire to remain a Patriot. $8 million APY should be the absolute floor for McCourty and New England should have the flexibility to increase their offer to $8.5-$9 million APY.
Revis still remains the priority signing for the Patriots, not just because his position is more crucial than safety, but also because he controls New England's cap space. But if the Patriots have confidence in his return after they don't pick up his option, then they should actively pursue McCourty to bring him back to the fold.