Devin McCourty

AFC East Notes: Patriots, McCourty, Dolphins

Ben Watson is now in his second stint with the Patriots, and the veteran tight end acknowledged that he has a greater respect for coach Bill Belichick than he did during his first go-around.

“I definitely have a different appreciation for him than I had 15 years ago,” Watson told SiriusXM Radio (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “There are many ways he hasn’t changed. Sitting in the team meeting room, he says a lot of the same things, because they are still true. Being much older than I was before, I’m able to appreciate that a lot more — a lot of the coaching, and embrace it in a way I wasn’t before. I can also see him separate from the coach, he does enjoy himself, he does smile, he does do all those things as a young player you thought he never did.”

The 2004 first-round pick spent the first six seasons of his career with New England, and he came out of retirement to (partly) replace the offensive production of Rob Gronkowski. Watson will sit out the first four games of the upcoming season after failing a drug test.

Let’s check out some more notes out of the AFC East…

  • The Patriots have had an undrafted rookie make their 53-man roster for 15 straight years, and Reiss writes that NC State wideout Jakobi Meyers is the leading candidate to earn a spot this year. The six-foot-two wideout was seen practicing with the first team all week, and the Patriots’ depth chart is currently struggling with Julian Edelman sitting out. Meyers hauled in 92 receptions for NC State last season, breaking Torry Holt‘s school record.
  • Safety Devin McCourty is about to start his 10th NFL season, but the Patriots veteran hasn’t thought about when he’s going to hang up his cleats. “I’ve been having a lot of fun this year,” McCourty told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “I haven’t thought about next year or anything else. I’m just trying to see how much better I can get in year 10 and see how good I can be still at, in a couple weeks, (when I turn) 32 years old and still playing football and trying to embrace that.”
  • The Dolphins defense should look a whole lot different next season, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that much of that can be attributed to the defensive-minded Brian Flores. The team’s new head coach is planning on having several different looks (or “groups,” as Flores calls them) on defense, including 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, and something else altogether different. “It really comes back to trying to put the right personnel groupings out there to match up with what the offense is doing and try to maximize the skill set of our players,” explained defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. “If it’s five or 10 safeties, then that’s what it is.”
  • Defensive lineman Tank Carradine is a fan of the defensive scheme, noting that it could help him become a three-down player. “There are different schemes that we run, and I have to be able to set the edge, play inside,” Carradine said. “They’re trying to move me all over the field. That’s something that I like. It’s giving me a chance to play different positions and be all out there and be an every-down player.”

Patriots’ Devin McCourty To Play In 2019

Before the Super Bowl, Patriots safety Devin McCourty openly pondered retirement. But, on Thursday night, McCourty said he’s “going to play,” (Twitter link via the Sports Spectrum Podcast). 

At that point, that was Media Night when Deion said that to me, and it’s like, yeah, man, if we won a Super Bowl, I don’t know what else could top that,” he said. “I think in that moment I kind of forgot that I don’t play this game just to win Super Bowls. There’s so much more that comes from me playing the game that I love. I think once you get a chance to step away for a couple weeks, you’re like, yeah, I still do want to be around these other young guys that come in.

McCourty is set to earn $9MM in the final year of his deal, though its possible the Patriots will ask him to take a pay cut. Of course, without the threat of retirement, McCourty might not have much in the way of leverage.

Last year, McCourty registered 82 tackles, four passes defensed and a pick six across all 16 games.

The rest of the key secondary players – Patrick Chung, Obi Melifonwu, Nate Ebner, and Duron Harmon – are also set to return to the Pats in ’19.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

McCourty Brothers Considering Retirement?

Devin McCourty isn’t the only member of the family considering retirement. Devin’s brother, Jason McCourty, is also considering retirement, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears. 

Devin was the first McCourty family member to go public with his desire to retire, but Jason is actually more likely to call it quits, Rapoport reports. Jason is set to hit free agency and he may walk away if he’s put in a spot where he has to change teams. Devin, meanwhile, is set to earn a $9MM base salary, and he could lean towards walking away if he is asked to take a pay cut.

I don’t know for sure, man, but I do look at (retirement),McCourty said recently. “If we can win this game, win it with my brother [Jason McCourty], I don’t know what else I could do that’ll top that. So I’m just trying to make sure I enjoy this season and enjoy these last couple days with these guys.”

Of course, the outcome of tonight’s game could also impact their decision. A Super Bowl win may prompt both brothers to ride off into the sunset.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots’ Devin McCourty Considering Retirement

If the Patriots win on Sunday, it could mark the final game of Devin McCourty‘s career. This week, the safety told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders that he’s thinking about walking off into the sunset if he’s able to capture another Super Bowl ring. 

I don’t know for sure, man, but I do look at (retirement),” McCourty said (via NFL.com). “If we can win this game, win it with my brother [Jason McCourty], I don’t know what else I could do that’ll top that. So I’m just trying to make sure I enjoy this season and enjoy these last couple days with these guys.”

McCourty, 31, has two Super Bowl rings and is looking to add a third this weekend. After nine seasons in the NFL, no one could fault him for leaving on a high note.

On the other hand, McCourty is still playing at a high level. In 2018, the veteran finished out with 82 tackles and one interception – an 84-yard pick six against the Bills in Week 8. All in all, he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 ranked safety in the NFL, putting him ahead of guys like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tyrann Mathieu, and Bradley McDougald.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Extend Ninkovich, Restructure McCourty

The Patriots have signed suspended and injured defensive end Rob Ninkovich to a one-year extension, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe tweets. Ninkovich is now effectively playing on a two-year, $4.27MM deal, and the extension will save him approximately $117K in suspension-related fines. Ninkovich, already slated to miss several weeks to start the season after suffering a torn triceps injury, was suspended four games earlier this month for a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Rob Ninkovich (vertical)

Ninkovich has been a boon to the New England pass rush during his tenure with the club, racking up at least 6.5 sacks per year since the 2011 season. The extension therefore helps the club ease some of the financial strains Ninkovich will face as a result of his suspension while keeping one of its more important defensive players under club control for 2017 at a reasonable rate.

The Patriots also restructured Devin McCourty‘s contract on Friday, according to Volin (via Twitter). The team converted $3.74MM of McCourty’s base salary into a signing bonus, thereby creating $2.8MM of cap space in 2016. As a result, Volin tweets, the team adds a fairly palatable $935K to McCourty’s cap number for each of the 2017-19 seasons.

McCourty signed a five-year $47.5MM deal last March as the top safety on the free agent market, but he started his professional career as a corner. The Rutgers product excelled at that position in 2010, his rookie season, grading as the league’s seventh-best CB that year, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. However, even though he remained effective against the run in 2011, his coverage grade lagged and he dropped to 57th on PFF’s cornerback rankings.

In 2012, therefore, he began splitting his snaps between corner and safety, and he was named an All-Pro safety in 2013. He has remained a stalwart at that position ever since. Prior to reworking the contract, the Patriots had a little more than $6.5MM in cap room (per OverTheCap.com), so they did not necessarily need to create more space, but the move does give the club a bit more of an operating budget for 2016.

Ninkovich will have a cap hit of $4.77MM this season after this new deal, giving the experienced Patriot a $367K increase from the previous ’16 figure, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports. As for 2017, Ninkovich’s cap hit will be $2.25MM ($1MM base salary). The deal includes a $400K roster bonus ($25K per game), according to Howe. Ninkovich’s $1MM base for 2017 is guaranteed.

All in all, Ninkovich can earn up to $3.5MM in new money as a result of this extension, which Howe reports was signed on Monday. He’ll receive a $1.5MM signing bonus as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Patriots Notes: Butler, FAs, Sheard

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the extension that Allen Hurns signed with the Jaguars a few days ago could serve as a useful blueprint for the Patriots in their efforts to deal with the contract situations of three of the club’s top defenders: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler. Collins and Hightower are eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2016 season, whereas Butler is set to become a restricted free agent.

Hurns, like Butler, came into the league as an undrafted free agent, and like Butler, he was set to make $600K in 2016 before becoming a RFA in March 2017. But as Reiss points out, the four-year, $40MM deal Hurns inked with the Jags was tacked on to the final year of his UDFA contract, so Hurns is now effectively playing under a five-year, $40.6MM pact, which sounds a lot more reasonable for a player who enjoyed a successful 2015 campaign but who does not have a long track record of success or an impressive draft pedigree. Such an arrangement would seem to make a great deal of sense for Butler in particular, though Reiss says that an extension for any of the Butler/Collins/Hightower trio would likely be similar in concept and would benefit both sides, as the player gets coveted financial security while the team stays ahead of a rising market by being willing to strike a deal a year early.

Now let’s take a look at more on the Patriots:

  • In the same piece, Reiss says the Patriots did try to follow a similar contractual model with Devin McCourty as he entered the final year of his contract two seasons ago, but their offer was not enticing enough for McCourty. As a result, New England ended up having to pay McCourty at a market value that was higher than the club anticipated. Reiss therefore believes the Pats will be more proactive in their approach with their biggest free agents-to-be this time around.
  • Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald echoes the sentiments put forth by former NFL agent Joey Corry last week, saying that Butler needs to understand his contract will take a backseat for the time being given that he will only become a RFA when the 2017 league year begins and can be retained for 2017 for a relatively modest $4MM or so. In addition to Collins and Hightower, Guregian also mentioned Jabaal Sheard as a pending unrestricted free agent whose contract the team may try to address before Butler’s.
  • Christopher Price of WEEI.com offers an early 53-man roster projection for the Patriots.

 

AFC East Notes: McCourty, Jets, Fitzpatrick

Here’s a look at the AFC East:

  • Patriots safety Devin McCourty only suffered a sprained ankle and the injury will not cause him to miss the playoffs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. McCourty suffered a scary looking non-contact injury on Sunday night and some observers initially worried that McCourty had suffered a serious injury, such as an Achilles tear.
  • Muhammad Wilkerson is getting less affordable for the Jets with every sack, Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post writes. One game does not make a player, but Hubbuch feels that the All-Pro defensive tackle upped his asking price significantly with a monster afternoon Sunday against the Titans. The pending free agent tallied three sacks, three quarterback hits, two other tackles for lost yardage and five solo tackles to go along with a forced fumble and a pass breakup. “Mo is definitely in beast mode right now,” Jets’ safety Calvin Pryor said. “He’s unstoppable right now, [and] everybody’s starting to take notice. He’s a great player and keeps getting the job done, week in and week out.”
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick went from an afterthought to having one of the Jets’ best years for a quarterback ever, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. On his sixth team at the age of 33, Fitzpatrick is closing in on his first playoff berth as a starter and it’s no surprise that coach Todd Bowles wants to bring him back in 2016.

East Notes: Eagles, Patriots, Bills

The Eagles made a pair of noteworthy free agent signings at running back in the offseason when they added DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. As last season’s NFL rushing champion, Murray signed a far bigger contract than Mathews (five years and $42MM versus three years, $11MM). Their performances this year haven’t reflected their disparate deals, however, as Mathews has easily outplayed Murray. Both backs have a similar number of carries (49 for Murray, 41 for Mathews), but Mathews has averaged an impressive 5.0 yards per attempt against Murray’s paltry 2.7.

To his credit, Murray took the notion of an increase in Mathews’ touches in stride, per Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

“Hey, whatever they decide,” Murray said. “I can only control what I can control. I can’t control the plays being called or who’s in on different situations.”

In assessing Mathews, Murray stated, “I think he’s running it great. Obviously, he’s a tough running back, tough to defend, tough guy to bring down and I think he’s been doing well.”

How the two have played this year might not matter this week, as Mathews could miss the Eagles’ key game against the NFC East rival Giants with a groin injury. That would give Murray a chance to sink or swim as the unquestioned go-to back. The fifth-year man has fared respectably of late, rushing 28 times for 119 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. He accrued season highs in carries (20) and yards (83) in the Eagles’ 39-17 win over the Saints last Sunday.

Now the latest regarding a couple of AFC East teams:

  • Bills receiver Sammy Watkins spoke out Thursday about the lack of targets that came his way before he suffered a Week 3 injury. His issues seem to lie with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who could miss Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a knee injury. That would make EJ Manuel the Bills’ starter under center, and Manuel expressed support for Watkins on Friday (via The Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne). I think as quarterbacks, we like to hear our receiver is hungry and wants to make plays.” Manuel and Watkins seemingly established a rapport during their limited work together in 2014: Manuel targeted Watkins 32 times in four games, per Chris Trapasso of NFL.com (Twitter link). On the other hand, in two-plus games this year, Taylor has targeted Watkins 12 times.
  • With the Patriots weakened at cornerback thanks to Tarell Brown‘s foot injury, they could turn to stalwart safety Devin McCourty for help at the position against the Colts this weekend, writes Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. McCourty came into the league as a corner in 2010 before eventually making the transition to safety. Head coach Bill Belichick used McCourty at corner at times over the summer in the event he’d be needed there this year. That looks as if it could happen this week, as New England is down to Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, undrafted rookie Justin Coleman, and newly added waiver-wire pickup Rashaan Melvin at the positon.
  • In other Patriots news, the team will promote offensive tackle Cameron Fleming from its practice squad to its 53-man roster, tweets ESPN’s Mike Reiss. The former Stanford Cardinal spent all of last season on the Pats’ 53-man roster and played in seven games after they used a fourth-round pick on him.

AFC East Notes: J. Taylor, McCourty, Dareus

We learned earlier today that the Giants suffered yet another blow to their secondary last night, and as Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins‘ secondary is also growing thin due to injury. After losing Louis Delmas to a torn ACL last week, Miami saw Jamar Taylor leave last night’s preseason game to a quadriceps injury. Taylor, fighting for a starting cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes, dealt with a sports hernia in his rookie campaign in 2013, and last year he was placed on IR with a shoulder injury. The severity of Taylor’s latest ailment is unknown at this time.

As the Giants and Dolphins fret over their secondaries, let’s take a look at a few more links from the AFC East:

  • Devin McCourty played cornerback for the Patriots in their preseason contest against New Orleans last night, and he did not like it one bit. McCourty said, via Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com, “I hope it’s not permanent. It didn’t feel great, and I don’t think it looked great so we’ll see.” McCourty, of course, transitioned to safety from corner in 2012, and has thrived as a safety in the past couple of seasons. But with the exodus of starting-caliber corners from New England this offseason, the team may be forced to utilize McCourty’s versatility more than he would like.
  • In a separate piece, Curran discusses the status of the Patriots‘ running back battle in light of the impressive performances from James White and Dion Lewis last night.
  • PFR’s Sam Robinson wrote yesterday that Marcell Dareus has softened his public stance towards his contract negotiations with the Bills, and as Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News opines, it’s the right move. Sullivan writes that Dareus may be an excellent player, but he is surrounded by other terrific players on the defensive line, and he is not nearly the run defender that Ndamukong Suh is. Those facts, combined with Dareus’ past indiscretions, suggest that Dareus should not be paid like Suh, regardless of what Dareus himself thinks. In the end, the Bills will likely bend a bit, Dareus will bend a bit, and Dareus will remain in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com says Jets‘ tight end Jace Amaro, a holdover from the John Idzik regime, is on the “moderate” hot seat. Amaro was listed as the third tight end on the team’s first official depth chart, and the team has mixed feelings about him. Cimini adds that wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is in a similar situation, especially given the strong training camp of Quincy Enunwa.

AFC Notes: Freeman, Steelers, McCourty, Anderson

Josh Freeman is trying to make the most of his opportunity with the Dolphins, but the quarterback understands that he could be on the outside looking in:

“We’ve got four quarterbacks on the roster and a limited amount of time,” Freeman told Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel. “Some days, I might not get the reps in practice.

“I don’t think anybody can see the future. You don’t really think of those scenarios that haven’t really come up in your mind at times. I’m just taking it in stride. Whatever it becomes, I’m trying to make the most of it.”

When asked about this chances to make the team, Freeman had an honest outlook:

“I couldn’t tell you either way. The coaches are the decision-makers. All I know is I’m going to keep giving it my best, continue to improve and let the people whose call it is to make make the call.”

Let’s see what else is happening around the AFC…

  • Keith Butler waited patiently a dozen years for his opportunity, but he’s finally the man in charge of the Steelers‘ defense. This offseason, the team did not renew the contract of Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, giving Butler the opportunity to ascend to defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Butler had opportunities to be someone else’s defensive coordinator, as Dan Scifo of The Associated Press writes. “To me, if you’re going to coach in this game, you want to win a Super Bowl,” said Butler. “I always thought the best chance for me to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator would be (in Pittsburgh).”
  • The Patriots lost several notable defenders this offseason, including veterans Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork, and that makes safety Devin McCourty the de facto “face” of the defense. Of course, the All-Pro defensive back would never admit that. “We have a lot of really good players on defense,” McCourty said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “Last year, a lot of guys stepped up and made plays, and I think that is going to continue to happen. I don’t really think we have a face. We have guys that have been here a longer time than other guys…There’s so much that goes into being a good team and a good defense that you can’t put it on one guy to be the so-called face of the defense.”
  • Broncos running back C.J. Anderson signed a new contract yesterday, but it had nothing to do with his football career. The 24-year-old inked a sponsorship with Storm – The Bowler’s Company, essentially making the running back a professional bowler. “This could also be something after football,” he told Rod Mackey of Colorado’s 9News. “A lot of people pickup golf, I might be picking up bowling.”

Zach Links contributed to this post.