The New England Patriots’ dynasty may not yet be over, but it is certainly facing its biggest test to date: Tom Brady, one of the founding fathers of the so-called “Patriot Way,” moved on in free agency after leading the organization to six Super Bowl wins in his 19 seasons as its starting quarterback. With the future Hall of Famer no longer part of the equation, New England will need to build around his eventual successor and the veterans still on the roster.
One of those is safety Devin McCourty. While the 32-year-old was also scheduled to hit the open market last week, he decided to stay in New England and signed a two-year, $23 million contract extension with the club. After the departures of Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, McCourty is now both the third-oldest and the third-longest tenured player on the team, but will still be one of the pillars upon which the new-look Patriots will be built.
The three-time world champion and team captain certainly seems to embrace the challenge that awaits him and his team. In a recent essay in The Players’ Tribune, McCourty opened up about his offseason experience — how he initially planned to leave New England after 10 seasons only to return after all to stay close to his twin brother, fellow Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty — and how New England will have to adjust without Brady.
“People are going to say that because Tom’s gone, the dynasty is over,” McCourty wrote about the Patriots. “They’re already burying us, far as I can tell. And that’s fine. Let ’em. We’ve never listened to the noise, and we’re not about to start now. But the task is definitely taller this coming year than it has been in years past. There’s more work to do. And it’s not gonna be so easy this time around. That’s where the new challenge comes in.”
The challenge McCourty mentioned, of course, goes beyond replacing Brady: New England also had to let starting linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins go in free agency, as well as other valuable members of the 2019 squad such as Ted Karras, Danny Shelton, Elandon Roberts and Nate Ebner. McCourty’s own position group will have to move forward without Duron Harmon, who was traded to Detroit despite being the team’s third safety.
Change is obviously the lone constant in the NFL and something every team experiences each offseason to a certain degree. The Patriots’ recent exodus, however, is noteworthy because of how drastically it alters the entire franchise — primarily because of Brady leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and impacts all three phases of the game. McCourty and company will therefore quickly need to find a way to turn the page.
“I thought I had to leave New England to find what I was looking for,” McCourty wrote about looking for new challenges in life and his career in pro football. “But it turns out that there is no greater challenge for me right now than leading this Patriots team into a new era and helping ensure that this next wave of players can continue our legacy and build on what we’ve already achieved as a franchise. That’s what I’m most excited about moving forward.”