The Patriots have locked themselves into a long term deal with safety Devin McCourty, proving once again that New England is willing to pay top dollar for top talent. McCourty's reported contract contains the most guaranteed money for a safety in the entire league, a selling point that's in-line with the second largest annual value for a safety.
McCourty has earned every penny of this deal with both his production on the field and his leadership off of it. He's a crucial member of the team's locker room and is respected by everyone who crosses his path.
Devin joined the Patriots in 2010 as a first round draft pick and made an immediate rookie impact as an All Pro cornerback. Unfortunately, 2011 featured the worst safety play in NFL history, featuring 13 different players at safety over the course of a Super Bowl season. McCourty's play dipped because he was asked to do too much; he was playing on an island because no safety could be trusted.
McCourty rebounded in 2012, with the introduction of safety Steve Gregory, and was actually considered one of the top cornerbacks in football. Halfway through the season, the Patriots acquired Aqib Talib, which provided the Patriots with a group of quality starting corners in Talib, McCourty, and Alfonzo Dennard, but no viable free safety. As a result, McCourty switched to play safety and hasn't looked back, earning another All Pro nod at safety.
He's one of the top four free safeties in the entire league, alongside Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, and Harrison Smith, and his versatility as a former cornerback allows the Patriots to use him in many ways. He plays single high safety, he plays cover two, he lines up in the slot against tight ends, he can and does do everything at a high level.
Bill Belichick expressed his respect for McCourty by saying the defensive back doesn't make the same mistake twice. Experts in Belichick-speak know that's the highest praise you can receive. McCourty is known through the locker room as the coaches favorite and as a player who never gets in trouble. He leads the secondary and he's just entering his prime.
It's quite possible that McCourty has elevated himself into the realm of the top five draft picks in the Bill Belichick era. Of course Tom Brady is the greatest ever, while Logan Mankins, Matt Light, and Richard Seymour all have claim. McCourty isn't even the best player in his draft class, with Rob Gronkowski following in the second round. Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Asante Samuel, and even Julian Edelman deserve credit.
But I don't think there's any doubt that McCourty will continue to climb the mountain of Patriots lore with each passing season.
The Rutgers graduate is everything great about Patriots football. He's a player who does his job, whatever it is, who is a model citizen on and off the field, who is willing to step up and do everything that is asked of him and much, much more. He is the heartbeat for the defense that needs one more than ever.
Devin continued to express his desire to stay in New England over the off-season and both sides were able to make it happen. He wanted to build his legacy and he wanted to raise his family as a part of the New England community.
Welcome home, Devin. Welcome home.