So far, free agency has been a complete and utter frenzy for the New England Patriots. After losing Super Bowl LI, everyone in Patriots Nation wanted New England to get a big name cornerback. When that fell didn’t happen, hot takes were everywhere. Belichick was asleep at the wheel, and the 2018 Patriots defense was already a failure. However, the Patriots acquired longtime cornerback Jason McCourty from the Cleveland Browns, and he is just what the Patriots need.
Jason McCourty is Just What the New England Patriots Need
What the Patriots Need
With the departure of Malcolm Butler, there was no denying the Patriots needed to look into acquiring a cornerback to start opposite Stephon Gilmore. However, that need was a little overblown among Patriots fans due to how ugly the Super Bowl was. Yes, Eric Rowe struggled against Philadelphia Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, but once he switched off him he had a really good game.
The front seven and poor coaching decisions were the main reasons the defense played so poorly, so signing a top-tier cornerback wasn’t a necessity. If New England could get players to fix their front seven, then a typical number two cornerback would easily suffice in the secondary.
What Jason McCourty Brings
He’s not a superstar along the lines of Aqib Talib or Richard Sherman, but McCourty is still a quality starting NFL cornerback. Initially selected as a sixth-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft, McCourty has carved out a nine-year NFL career as a defensive back.
While the Cleveland Browns were terrible in 2017, McCourty was not. He had moments where he looked like a true number one cornerback, and finished the year as the 27th ranked cornerback in the league, per Pro Football Focus. By comparison, Malcolm Butler finished the year ranked 51st among cornerback. If McCourty can have a similar 2018, the Patriots should have one of the better cornerback duos in football.
Additionally, McCourty’s style of play is a perfect fit for the New England Patriots. McCourty is at his best when he’s playing press coverage, which perfectly aligns with what Gilmore excels at. When Gilmore and McCourty, the Patriots can run tough, physical man coverages and don’t have to worry about the corners getting beat off the line.
Lastly, McCourty does the little things well. Just like his twin brother and teammate, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty is a great tackler. He’s not afraid to play the run, lower his shoulder and do the dirty work. Some cornerbacks shy away from making tackles, but McCourty is not one of them. Nobody values fundamentals more than Bill Belichick, which just gives McCourty more value on the Patriots.
While it would have been great to see Sherman, Talib, or Trumaine Johnson in a Patriots uniform, it would have taken a lot of money to make that happen. Per @patscap, The Patriots currently only have a bit over $21 million in cap space. Signing any one of those players would have taken up a sizable portion of that cap space.
Instead, the Patriots got the significantly cheaper option of Jason McCourty. McCourty only has a $3.6 million dollar cap hit in 2018. This minimal hit on the salary cap means that the Patriots got a good player without sacrificing roster depth.
Additionally, it cost nothing to get McCourty. The Patriots swapped their late sixth-round pick for the Browns early seventh. That small drop in draft positioning makes it such that the Patriots got McCourty essentially for free.
Had they signed a free agent, this would not be the case. Currently, New England will probably receive two third round compensation picks and an additional sixth rounder for the departures of Solder, Butler, and Lewis. If the Patriots had signed a free agent cornerback, that would affect their compensatory pick formula.
Obviously, there’s no way to know how much a free agent cornerback would have affected New England’s compensation picks, but now there’s no need to worry about that. Free agent signings are the only factors that play into the compensation formula. Since McCourty was acquired via trade, he has no effect on how the compensation picks are determined.
Cover image courtesy of NBC Sports.