To bolster their depth at cornerback, the New England Patriots should sign recently-released cornerback Jason McCourty.
Immediately after the Tennessee Titans released cornerback Jason McCourty, fans speculated that the New England Patriots should reunite the 29-year-old with his twin brother, Devin McCourty. Plenty of credible beat writers also believe this is a strong move, with ESPN’s Mike Reiss calling McCourty an “ideal fit” for the Patriots defense.
I would be shocked if McCourty joins a team other than the Patriots, because the pairing does indeed appear to be perfect on paper. Nearing his age-30 season, McCourty was just released by the Titans and is coming off of an average year. His value is at a low, which means the Patriots could scoop him up on a cheap, one-year deal.
More importantly, if McCourty joins the Patriots, he would be playing alongside the most talented teammates of his career. While with the Tennessee Titans, he rarely had a competent free safety or cornerback on his side, and you could argue that the only true star he’s played with is Alterraun Verner. And based on how Verner’s career has gone with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you could argue that he was never even that big of a star either.
On the Patriots, Jason McCourty would be a No. 3 corner behind Gilmore and Butler (or even Richard Sherman, though that seems unlikely). Heck, he could even lose snaps to rising young Utah product Eric Rowe, who rebounded in 2016 after a rough rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles under Chip Kelly’s incompetent coaching.
I bring up coaching, because that’s another important factor here. McCourty is 29 and isn’t going to change as an athlete. However, he could still pick up some new things from Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. Additionally, Belichick and Patricia will know exactly how to use him, because McCourty fits the exact profile of the type of cornerback the Patriots like.
Smaller, feisty corners like Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington have found plenty of success in New England, but the Pats also enjoy having bigger corners on the outside like Aqib Talib and Rowe. All four of these cornerbacks have very different builds, but they all share two things in common. Firstly, they are willing to play physical, and, secondly, they are competent run defenders.
With seasons of 105, 92, and 85 tackles in his career, McCourty has a nose for the football, and while he isn’t as good of a pursuer or tackler as his twin brother, he is a more physical defensive back.
In the past, the Patriots have shown interest in the former Rutgers standout, as the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that they once asked about his availability in a trade. A deal was never going to happen, but now that he should be a cheap free agent, the Patriots have every reason to see if they can get more out of McCourty as a backup corner than Tennessee could as an every-down starter.
Although McCourty wasn’t a standout player for the Titans last season, his release had more to do with his impending $7 million salary. He simply wasn’t worth that kind of money, and his cost was pretty much untenable for a Titans team that doesn’t need to overpay veteran players. The Patriots can get more out of him for far less, because, at this stage of his career, he could be a much more effective player in a smaller role. If the Patriots decide to sign McCourty, it’s hard to see the downside of bringing him on board.