The New England Patriots ended the 2018 season in the best possible way, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl 53. In order to stay on top of the NFL mountain, though, the organization will have to quickly turn the page to get itself into a position to create the best possible team for the 2019 season. And a big part of building such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency.
If judged by the list of free agents to be, New England’s front office will be busy over the next two weeks before the new league year officially is kicked off on March 13. Also over the next days, we will take a look at those free agents-to-be to find out who may or may not get re-signed by the Patriots; and who should be a part of the 2019 squad. Today, we’ll continue the series with starting cornerback Jason McCourty.
#30 Jason McCourty
2019 opening day age: 32
2018 playing time: 19 games (16 regular season + 3 postseason); 81.2% defensive snaps, 23.7% special teams snaps
2018 regular season statistics: 68 tackles, 1 forced fumble; 40 catches on 76 targets, 650 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interceptions; 2 special teams tackles
2018 postseason statistics: 10 tackles; 8 catches on 14 targets, 145 yards
2018 cap number: $3.38 million
When the Patriots traded a sixth-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns to acquire Jason McCourty and a seventh-round selection, the team effectively secured a starting defender for a drop of 14 draft spots. And even though the younger of the McCourty twins started his tenure in New England slowly, he did make the roster and ultimately earned regular playing time as the team’s second cornerback alongside Stephon Gilmore.
In general, McCourty proved to be a solid and flexible presence in the Patriots’ secondary. While his playing time was more fluctuant than, for example, Gilmore’s, the veteran was productive when on the field — and he proved it in the biggest of settings: during New England’s Super Bowl win, McCourty made one of the outstanding defensive plays when he knocked a football out of Brandin Cooks’ hands on a would-be-touchdown. The pass breakup helped the cornerback go from 0-16 in 2017 to world champion one year later.
Why should he be re-signed? After the Patriots lost Malcolm Butler in the offseason and Eric Rowe early during the year, McCourty slid into a considerable role in the defense and never looked back. Bringing experience, leadership and proven quality to the table, the 31-year old might furthermore be willing to take a hometown discount to keep playing alongside his twin brother Devin McCourty.
Why should he be let go? The Patriots invested a second-round draft pick in Duke Dawson last year, saw fellow rookie J.C. Jackson contribute in a noticeable way, and have 25-year old Jonathan Jones as a productive slot cornerback. In short: the Patriots might be willing to let McCourty walk and roll with the young talent they have on their roster.
Projection: While New England will not sign McCourty to a multi-year extension giving his comparatively advanced age, it would not be a surprise to see the club bring him back into a fold on a two-year deal worth around $3.5 to $5.0 million annually.