The Patriots have reached out to Devin McCourty‘s camp to begin contract negotiations for the standout safety, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, reports Albert Breer of the NFL Network (via Twitter). Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (Twitter link) clarifies that while the Pats have informed McCourty they’re interested in an extension, the two sides haven’t officially begun to negotiate specific figures yet.
Meanwhile, according to Breer (via Twitter), McCourty isn’t the only notable AFC defender whose team is eyeing a new contract — nose tackle Jurrell Casey and the Titans have also had early discussions about an extension.
McCourty, 26, didn’t post the same flashy numbers in 2013 that he has in past seasons, grabbing just one interception after totaling 14 in his first three NFL seasons. However, the former 27th overall pick received excellent scores for his overall performance from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), whose grades ranked him as the league’s best safety in ’13. Given the big-money deals signed by fellow safeties like Jairus Byrd and Earl Thomas in recent months, McCourty should be in line for a multiyear contract that rivals the $9-10MM annual salaries earned by those players.
As for Casey, the 24-year-old is coming off a breakout season in which he compiled 10.5 sacks and 55 tackles, ranking fourth among 69 qualified defensive tackles, per PFF’s metrics (subscription required). Casey’s pass-rushing grades placed him behind only Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh as an interior rusher, as he racked up 54 quarterback pressures for the season. Not coincidentally, Suh and McCoy are the league’s top two highest-paid defensive tackles by per-year salary, so Casey, who will earn a $1.431MM base salary in the last year of his rookie contract, should also expect a lucrative long-term deal.