Rob Ninkovich warned of a mass exodus in New England if Tom Brady left the Patriots in free agency.
That exodus nearly included Devin McCourty, according to the veteran safety himself.
In an article Tuesday for The Players' Tribune, McCourty admitted he "honestly thought it was time" for him to leave New England as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Going into free agency, I was thinking that at this stage in my career, I was ready for a change. I mean, I love New England. But after 10 years and winning three Super Bowls, something inside was telling me that I was ready for a new challenge. And I thought I might have to go elsewhere to find it.
That's a similar mindset to that of Tom Brady, who embarked on his own new challenge last Friday by signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 seasons in New England.
McCourty admitted he sensed Brady's exit was coming.
"I found out about Tom leaving the same way y’all did. On Twitter," McCourty wrote. "But I kind of knew when we got closer to free agency and he didn’t have a deal done that he wasn’t coming back.
"It’s still a little surreal because … it’s TOM, you know? He’s been here 20 years. He’s won six rings. He’s the greatest to ever do it. So it definitely won’t be the same now that he’s gone."
McCourty insisted he's "happy" for his longtime teammate, who has "earned the right to finish his career wherever he wants and chase whatever he feels like he needs to chase."
"I’m just glad he’s doing it in the NFC," McCourty added.
So, what convinced McCourty to sign a two-year contract extension with the Patriots on March 15? You guessed it: His twin brother, Jason McCourty.
"And as much as I wanted a new challenge in my career, I also told myself from the jump that if there was an opportunity to play with my brother again, I would take it," McCourty wrote, admitting that the Patriots picking up Jason's option for 2020 convinced him to stick around.
McCourty, a perennial captain and the longest-tenured member of New England's defense, arguably is the Patriots' leader with Brady out of town. After his brother signed, McCourty apparently convinced himself that succeeding without Brady would be its own "new challenge."
"People are going to say that because Tom’s gone, the dynasty is over," McCourty wrote. "They’re already burying us, far as I can tell. And that’s fine. Let ’em."
" ... I thought I had to leave New England to find what I was looking for. But it turns out that there is no greater challenge for me right now than leading this Patriots team into a new era and helping ensure that this next wave of players can continue our legacy and build on what we’ve already achieved as a franchise."