On Wednesday, reports broke that the New England Patriots would be expected to exercise the option in cornerback Jason McCourty’s contract for the 2020 season. The veteran, who first arrived in New England via trade during the 2018 offseason, will therefore remain with the club for another year and on a salary cap hit of $5.5 million — $500,000 of which in the form of the option bonus that will kick in once the new league year starts on March 18.
The move itself is not that big of a surprise, though, and there are multiple reasons why picking up the option is certainly a good decision on the Patriots’ part:
Reason No. 1: McCourty is still a valuable player
Before McCourty’s 2019 season was derailed by a groin injury suffered in mid-November — one that limited him to only eight more snaps over the remainder of the season, while he was inactive for five of seven possible games — the veteran played very well as the team’s top perimeter cornerback alongside Stephon Gilmore. While his rehabilitation from offseason surgery will be monitored closely, the Patriots apparently think that McCourty can return to his old form and still be of value to their secondary. His pre-injury play last year certainly supports this thought process.
Reason No. 2: New England’s cornerback depth
New England’s cornerback depth chart might be the best in the NFL heading into 2020, and having McCourty as a part of it is a reason why: he is a starting caliber player that is capable of moving between the perimeter and the slot and has considerable experience as well as proven production within the system. The 32-year-old definitely makes the group a deeper one and gives the Patriots more flexibility against opposing offenses.
With him remaining in the fold, and expected to return to full strength in 2020, New England’s cornerback group therefore looks as follows:
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel
Reason No. 3: His brother’s free agency
While Jason McCourty’s future is relatively clear due to the Patriots exercising his contract option, his twin brother’s remains up in the air: Devin McCourty is scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency on March 18, and while there appears to be mutual interest in the veteran, things can change quickly at this time of the year. Having Jason around instead of him possibly joining another team, however, certainly does not hurt the Patriots’ case in retaining Devin — who is coming off arguably the best season of his career, and is a core member of the team’s secondary as its starting free safety.
Reason No. 4: The rule changes surrounding option cuts
Earlier this year, the NFL decided to close one of the Patriots’ favorite free agency loopholes: the league has decided to do away with declined contact options being taken into account for the compensatory draft picks formula. What does this mean? If the Patriots had declined McCourty’s option under the previous set of rules, he might have netted them a compensatory selection had he left in free agency. Nowadays, however, those option cuts do not factor in the NFL’s calculations. Moving on from McCourty would therefore not have helped the team in this area, which is why keeping him instead makes more sense.