Justin Bethel

Pats Re-Sign Veteran DB Devin McCourty

The Patriots are bringing back veteran defensive back Devin McCourty for another season, according to the twins’ joint-Twitter account earlier this evening. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the older twin will be returning on a one-year deal worth $9MM. 

McCourty has started every game he’s ever played for the Patriots. Over his 12-year career, McCourty has appeared in 188 regular season games and 24 playoff games, only missing 5 games throughout his career. While he’s never quite matched the production of his rookie year when he intercepted 7 passes and broke up 17, he has long been a staple in the New England secondary, never failing to secure an interception in a season.

The Patriots tend to play three safeties and two corners on defense a lot of the time. Relying on J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills to lock down outside receivers, McCourty, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger are able to roam around and cover based on matchups and formations. The trio of safeties produced 11 interceptions between them, with Dugger coming on strong in his second season. The Patriots would love to see Dugger seamlessly step in when the 34-year-old McCourty decides to hang up the cleats.

With Jackson heading to the open market, the Patriots’ cornerbacks cupboard is looking pretty bare. Behind Mills is third-year corner Joejuan Williams and reserve corner Justin Bethel. McCourty’s experience at corner could be useful, but should be thought of as a last resort, as most corners move to safety in their advanced age, not the other way around. More likely the Patriots will look to the Draft and free agency to fill that hole.

Regardless, the Patriots bring back a leader. A durable one. He may not be able to produce on the field like he did in the 2010’s, but his role as the quarterback of the secondary makes him a valuable addition to the team’s 2022 defense.

Patriots Re-Sign Justin Bethel

The Patriots have agreed to a brand new deal with special teams standout Justin Bethel (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss). The new three-year, $6MM deal will tie Bethel to the Pats through 2023.

[RELATED: Patriots Re-Sign QB Cam Newton]

Early in his career, Bethel made a name for himself with the Cardinals. He made the Pro Bowl every year from 2013-2015 and stayed with the club through ’17. Then, he moved around a bit, spending time with the Falcons and Ravens before finding his place with the Patriots.

Roughly one year ago today, Bethel had surgery to repair a shoulder issue that had been hindering him. Fortunately, he was able to bounce back for the start of the season and appear in all 16 games for New England in 2020.

AFC East Rumors: Patriots, Brady, Jets

As speculation continues to swirl around Tom Brady, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston offers up an assuring and expected update for Patriots fans. No one knows what the quarterback will do when free agency begins, but the two sides are still in communication with each other. They’ve yet to meet, but texts are still being exchanged and head coach Bill Belichick has been among those in contact with the future Hall of Famer.

One source who spoke with Curran dismissed the notion that Brady has mentally divorced himself from the Pats.

Of course not. There’s an attachment there. You can’t be someplace for 20 years and not have an attachment,” the anonymous source said. “That’s just not who he is.”

Brady will listen closely to the Patriots’ pitch, Curran writes, and he expects them to pinpoint all of the comforts they offer against the backdrop of the unknown that he might find elsewhere.

Wherever he goes, there won’t be one guy who knows what he wants done and how he wants it done,” one league source said. “Is he going to coach the receivers coach on how to coach the receivers? Or coach the offensive coordinator? There’s a million things.”

While we wait for Brady’s next move, here’s a look at more from the AFC East:

  • In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has the Jets taking Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. Some expect the Jets to target a wide receiver at No. 11 overall, but league sources tell Miller that the Joe Douglas-led front office will not seek a WR in the first round. Thomas, meanwhile, can solve the Jets’ most glaring need and protect Sam Darnold at the left tackle spot.
  • Patriots special teams ace Justin Bethel had surgery to repair a shoulder issue that had been bothering him, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss. The good news is that Bethel should be good to go for the start of the season. The Pats may need the former Raven on hand since several special teams stalwarts – including Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner – are slated to reach free agency later this month.
  • Could Josh Norman reunite with his old friends from Carolina? Earlier this week, Bills GM Brandon Beane said that he’s talked with the veteran cornerback.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/23/19

Here are today’s minor transactions:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

  • Claimed: DL Jonathan Harris (from Bears)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texas

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Patriots To Sign DB Justin Bethel

4:34pm: This visit apparently went incredibly well. The Patriots are signing Justin Bethel, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Bethel will add firepower to the Patriots’ special teams units. The Ravens’ recent release of Bethel will benefit the AFC’s perennial Super Bowl favorites.

4:27pm: A day after the Ravens released Bethel for procedural purposes, the veteran cornerback/special-teamer visited the Patriots, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Although Bethel did not work out as the Cardinals’ starting corner opposite Patrick Peterson, he has become a top special-teamer. Bill Belichick has been known to value that skill, and the 20th-year Patriots coach/exec is taking a look at one of this year’s top AFC rivals’ recently discarded assets.

Bethel, 29, made two tackles in seven Ravens games and recovered a fumble. John Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator, called the veteran the best special teams player in the league. Bethel made the Pro Bowl three times for his special teams acumen, doing so from 2013-15 in Arizona. It will be interesting to see where he lands. The Patriots already employ a seven-time Pro Bowl special-teamer in Matthew Slater.

Because defensive lineman Brent Urban did not last on the Titans’ roster until Week 10, the Ravens lost their shot at a fourth-round compensatory pick. By dropping Bethel, they resumed their place in the queue. Baltimore values compensatory picks immensely, and it cost the franchise a key specialist in a 5-2 season.

Ravens Release Justin Bethel

On Monday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced the release of cornerback Justin Bethel. He also called him “the best special teams player in the NFL.”

Bethel didn’t lose his job for performance reasons. Instead, Harbaugh admitted that the Ravens were releasing the veteran in order to potentially pick up a fourth-round compensatory pick.

It’s complicated. Or, as Harbaugh put it, it’s a “funky” rule that will give the Ravens some extra firepower in the draft after defensive lineman Brent Urban, who left the Ravens for the Titans in the offseason, was cut by Tennessee last week.

Because Urban did not last on the Titans’ roster until Week 10, the Ravens lost their shot at a fourth-round compensatory pick. By dropping Bethel, they resumed their place in the queue.

Bethel will now seek work elsewhere, after notching a team-high six tackles for Baltimore.

Ravens Sign CB Justin Bethel

The Ravens announced that they’ve signed cornerback/special teamer Justin Bethel to a two-year contract. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) first reported Baltimore as nearing a deal with Bethel.

Bethel has been a starting cornerback in the past, as he played at least 25% of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps in each season from 2015-17. But he’s struggled in that capacity, and is known primarily for his work on special teams. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro as a special teamer, Bethel played zero defensive snaps for the Falcons in 2018 but saw action on two-thirds of Atlanta’s ST snaps.

Bethel will have little opportunity to play defense in a Baltimore secondary that ranks as one of the league’s best (especially after adding Earl Thomas), but the Ravens have always placed a strong emphasis on special teams play. Bethel will play under new ST coordinator Chris Horton, who replaced longtime Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg earlier today.

Falcons Sign CB/ST Justin Bethel

The Falcons have signed former Cardinals cornerback and special teamer Justin Bethel, per a Falcons release. ESPN’s Field Yates first reported that a deal between the two sides was done (on Twitter) and ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss first reported that Bethel was likely headed to the Falcons (on Twitter).

Bethel’s deal will be for one year, though the terms have of the deal have yet to be revealed, per ESPN’s Vaughn McLure (on Twitter).

Bethel, 27, has been one of the NFL’s most prominent gunners, having already been selected to three Pro Bowls, and has seen more time at cornerback in recent years with the Cardinals.

Bethel represents the Falcons’ biggest free-agent offseason splash thus far. Up until Saturday, their only free-agent addition was signing former 49ers guard Brandon Fusco and re-signing defensive end Derrick Shelby. The Falcons had hosted Bethel for a visit on Wednesday.

The Cardinals are dealt another loss to their secondary having already watched Tyrann Mathieu sign with the Texans following his release. They added depth to their secondary Friday by signing Bene Benwikere to a one-year deal. Safety Tyvon Branch remains the Cardinals’ final unsigned unrestricted free agent in their secondary.

Bethel didn’t start a single game at cornerback in his first three years in the NFL after the Cardinals took him in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Over the last three years, though, he’s accumulated 14 starts at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. He’s racked up four interceptions in that time, including a pick-six in each season.

The Falcons have Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford locked in at cornerback with long-term deals. While Bethel is likely to contribute on the Falcons’ special teams they are thin in their cornerback depth. Brian Poole, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Marcelis Branch currently serve as the only other cornerbacks on the roster outside of Trufant and Alford.

Falcons Meet With CB Justin Bethel

Cornerback Justin Bethel will meet with the Falcons on Tuesday, according to a release from the team. This is Bethel’s first known free agent visit of this cycle. 

[RELATED: Falcons’ Depth Chart, Via Roster Resource]

Bethel earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2013-2015, mainly for his special teams work. At different times over the last three seasons, the Cardinals have tried to use Bethel as their No. 2 cornerback opposite star Patrick Peterson. The results were mixed, at best, though he does have four interceptions since 2015.

The Falcons have been pretty quiet in free agency thus far with with guard Brandon Fusco representing their only signing. If Bethel comes to Atlanta, it’ll be largely for special teams purposes with some reps behind starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

NFC Notes: Bears, Cards, Rams, Giants

Extension chatter regarding contract-year Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks has died down after some early summer rumblings, but the 27-year-old made it clear Thursday that he’d like to remain in Chicago. Hicks said on multiple occasions that “I would love to be a Bear for a long time,” per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Back in July, in advance of his second season with the Bears, Hicks hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus as his representative. Rosenhaus has reportedly been seeking $10MM per year for Hicks on a new deal. Hicks made a case for that type of money last season when he tallied 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles across 16 starts and 930 snaps. Barring a change, he’ll earn a $4MM base salary this season to conclude a two-year, $10MM pact.

Elsewhere around the NFC…

  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians referred to cornerback Justin Bethel as a “failure in progress” last season, and it now looks as if the defender took that to heart. Arians announced Thursday that Bethel will start opposite Patrick Peterson come Week 1 (video link via the Arizona Republic). “He’s earned that job,” said Arians, who added that Bethel “outplayed everybody” he was competing against for the role. Bethel, 27, took a pay cut in the offseason just to remain with the Cardinals, who deleted the last year of his contract (2018) in the process. He’ll be eligible for free agency next winter as a result.
  • Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that running back Lance Dunbar is likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, according to the Associated Press. Dunbar, who has been battling knee issues, would miss the Rams’ first six games in that scenario. The Rams’ hope was that the offseason signing and former Cowboy would serve as their top complement to starter Todd Gurley for the entire year. With Dunbar unavailable for the foreseeable future, Los Angeles will choose between Malcolm Brown – a 2015 undrafted free agent who has 22 carries for 56 yards under his belt – and undrafted rookie Justin Davis to begin the year as the main backup to Gurley.
  • Cornerback Valentino Blake left the Giants on Wednesday because “he’s dealing with personal issues,” coach Ben McAdoo told reporters Thursday (via Dan Duggan of NJ.com) “We’re going to give him some time and space to deal with those.” It remains unclear whether Blake will resume his career, and it’s also unknown how long the Giants will keep him on the exempt list. They’re currently using Blake’s vacated spot on safety Tim Scott, a Thursday signing.