After three seasons together, the McCourty Twins have officially been split up. While Devin remains with the New England Patriots heading into the 2021 season, his twin brother Jason will leave the organization: the unrestricted free agent has agreed to join the Miami Dolphins to reunited with ex-Patriots assistant coaches Brian Flores and Josh Boyer.
While his tenure in New England comes to a pretty unspectacular end, it is still worth taking a look back on — especially given how Jason McCourty arrived in the first. After all, the trade that brought him to the Patriots in 2018 will go down as one of the best in team history.
Let’s rewind the clock a bit to March 2018.
With the Cleveland Browns coming off an 0-16 season, they were rebuilding their roster from the ground up. This also meant parting ways with previously successful but expensive players. McCourty was one of them: while he was well respected within the organization and one of its better players during the disastrous 2017 season, he also had a salary cap hit of $4 million and was entering his age-31 season on a new-look team.
While those numbers alone may not have played a role in the decision, he also seemed to be critical of the Browns’ decision makers during an end-of-season press meeting.
“The talent in this locker room is not the talent to go win a Super Bowl this year, but this locker room is far more talented than 0-16,” he said at the time. “I’m kind of tired of hearing so many people say, even within the organization, is we don’t have the guys or we need more guys. Let’s work with the guys we do have and find ways to win games.”
One reason or another, Cleveland decided to move on from McCourty. The team’s first impulse was therefore to release him; the news leaked to the press and the Browns even officially announced parting ways with him.
Enter the Patriots. Instead of allowing McCourty to be released and let the market set his price, New England picked up the phone to talk trade.
It did not take long for the two sides to reach an agreement. The Patriots would acquire the veteran cornerback and a seventh-round selection in the upcoming draft for a sixth-round pick that same year. New England dropped from No. 205 to No. 214 in return for a seasoned veteran who may have been his previous team’s best defensive player in 2017.
The two picks involved in the transaction are nothing to write home about. The Browns used it to trade up and acquire LSU cornerback Simeon Thomas at No. 188. The Patriots ended up picking LSU quarterback Danny Etling at No. 2014. Neither made his team’s roster that year, and both are no longer with the clubs that drafted them.
The selections used to send McCourty from Cleveland to New England are not what make this trade a great one from the Patriots’ perspective, though. It is the fact that they made a minor drop down the board on Day 3 of the draft while being able to add a difference maker to their secondary: McCourty went on to appear in 47 combined regular season and playoff games for the team, and established himself as a leader in its defensive backfield.
Never was that more apparent than in Super Bowl 53.
Over the first nine seasons of his NFL career — eight with the Tennessee Titans and one in Cleveland — McCourty had never made the playoffs. In New England, and playing alongside his twin brother, he not only reached the postseason but also helped his team advance to the Super Bowls. And in that game, he made one of the pivotal defensive plays:
That breakup of what seemed to be a surefire touchdown pass in the Super Bowl alone is worth a lot more than a 14-spot trade-down in the seventh round of the draft. McCourty had a major hand in New England beating the Los Angeles Rams with a final score of 13-3 — earning him his first and so far only championship ring.
His contributions, of course, did not end there. He was a starting-caliber cornerback for two more seasons and in 2020 was voted a team captain for the first time — taking over a vocal role within the locker room in light of the social justice protests breaking out in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.
The Patriots had a challenging season last year and eventually finished with a disappointing 7-9 record, but McCourty played an important role in keeping the locker room intact and helping the team transition away from the Tom Brady era. Add all his other contributions on and off the field, and you can see why New England can feel pretty good about his tenure with the club and the trade that brought him in.