Patriots

Patriots land dependable veteran corner in Jason McCourty

Patriots land dependable veteran corner in Jason McCourty

The Patriots tried to trade for Jason McCourty multiple times when he was a member of the Titans. For one reason or another, it didn't work out. 

Finally, after McCourty spent a season in Cleveland, Bill Belichick was able to land McCourty twin No. 2.

MORE - D. McCourty on addition of brother Jason 'It's a perfect fit'

It makes sense that Devin McCourty's brother would be deemed a fit in New England. Jason McCourty is considered a smart player who has the ability to play both man and zone. He has good speed and he's a willing tackler. And he's dependable. Among all corners last season who played at least 700 snaps, only Aqib Talib (1 missed tackle in 753 snaps) and Chris Harris (1 in 869 snaps) missed fewer tackles than McCourty (2 in 899 snaps).

Devin joined Boston Sports Tonight on Thursday to give a quick scouting report on his brother.

"Well I'm better," he said, "so I don't want to get people's hopes up too much. Whatever you think of me, think a little less of him."

As Jason toiled away for teams in Tennessee and Cleveland without a playoff appearance, his twin had no problem giving him a hard time while the Patriots played deep into January year after year. Devin did, however, play it straight for a moment on Thursday when discussing the benefits of playing alongside his wombmate and Rutgers teammate. 

"I think we're both smart football players, understand scheme and whatever it is as a defense you're trying to get done," he said. "I would say I'm a little bit more physical than him, and some people might say he's faster than me. It will be exciting to see how we feed off each other. 

"It's been a long time since we've been on the field together and been able to communicate and kind of know what each other is thinking and doing."

The twins will turn 31 this summer, but Jason McCourty has one more year of NFL service time under his belt after entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2009. In 2017, Jason had one of his best seasons, picking off three passes and breaking up eight others. He came in as the No. 17 corner in the league by season's end, according to Pro Football Focus. 

In New England, the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder will likely figure in as an outside corner opposite Stephon Gilmore as he played fewer than 30 snaps in the slot each of the last three years. Will he start? Will he come in as a third corner (which in 2018 is often essentially a starting role) and play on the outside with Eric Rowe bumping inside? 

All of that remains to be seen, but it's safe to say McCourty's presence provides the Patriots with a measure of depth they were lacking earlier in the week. With Malcolm Butler signing in Tennessee, the Patriots boast a group of corners that includes McCourty, Gilmore, Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Adams and Jomal Wiltz.

Because McCourty was traded, the Patriots pick up the final year of the two-year contract he signed with the Browns last offseason. He has a base salary of $2.375 million. New England sent a sixth-round pick (No. 205 overall) to Cleveland in exchange for McCourty and a seventh-round selection (No. 219).

Jason McCourty was initially set to be released, but the Patriots sought to secure the corner's services without losing him to a higher bidder, which could have happened had he hit the open market. 

The McCourty brothers have long been interested in playing together, and it might've happened had the Patriots and Titans ever agreed to terms when Jason was in Nashville. McCourty was released by the Titans last offseason, but his release came late in free-agency, and by the time he became available, the Patriots had added Gilmore and it had already become clear that Butler would be sticking for 2017. 

It wasn't meant to be then. One year later, the twins' mom Phyllis Harrell is finally getting her wish to see her sons team up in the NFL. 

"She was just screaming when I FaceTimed her," Devin said. "She was so excited. She wanted this longer than anybody else."

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Areas of change: How can the Patriots create some cap space ahead of free agency?

Areas of change: How can the Patriots create some cap space ahead of free agency?

Change is coming for the Patriots this offseason. Every day this week, we'll react to one area of the team that either has already undergone a shift, is in the process of shifting, or will be shifting soon. Today we'll see what kinds of changes the Patriots could make to player contracts in order to free up some cap space ahead of the new league year. 

Change is coming for Patriots bookkeepers. Happens every offseason, and 2019 will be no different. The team will have to make a few changes to contracts ahead of free agency if they want to have the cap space necessary to be in the mix for players on their radar.

Say the Patriots would like to make a play for Trey Flowers to keep continuity in their front seven, and say they'd like to try to add both Golden Tate and John Brown to bolster their depleted receiver corps. How would they do it? Could they do it?

The cap hits for those players in 2019 could very well eat up every last bit of the about $18 million in cap space the Patriots have at the moment. Not ideal, especially since they'll likely want to re-sign some of their other free agents like Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen, have enough space to sign their rookie class, and leave some space left over for mid-season acquisitions.

So what can they do?

They could extend Tom Brady for another couple years, drop his base salary to the minimum of $1.03 million, and convert his remaining 2019 base salary into signing bonus prorated over the life of his new deal. The result? He gets a raise, and the Patriots get a few million in cap space. 

Not a bad way to start.

Then the Patriots can work their way down the roster, and there's more cap space to be had. For instance, Dwayne Allen was a key to the Patriots Super Bowl victory, allowing them to get two tight ends on the field to pick apart the Rams, but with a $7.3 million cap hit for 2019, he's an obvious candidate for a contract restructure or release.

The Patriots will have decisions to make on role players such as Adrian Clayborn and Elandon Roberts. If they're looking for more cap relief, they could free up several more million by moving on.

Retirements will impact the equation here, too. If those are coming, they could mean millions more in cap space.

The bottom line: There are a lot of moving parts salary-cap wise for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to consider, but if they want to give themselves some financial flexibility ahead of the new league year, they have a variety of options to pursue in order to achieve that goal.

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Steelers reportedly not open to trading Antonio Brown to Patriots

Steelers reportedly not open to trading Antonio Brown to Patriots

It's never a good idea to trade your best player to a rival team. The Pittsburgh Steelers apparently are operating as such.

The Steelers will listen to trade offers from 27 NFL clubs for wide receiver Antonio Brown, the MMQB's Albert Breer reported Thursday. The four teams they won't do business with: their three other AFC North competitors ... and the New England Patriots.

Pittsburgh's stance should surprise no one, but it's a reminder the team still views New England as its biggest threat in the AFC. While the Steelers upset the Patriots in 2018, the Pats won the teams' previous five meetings and have had a stranglehold on the conference for the last several years.

The downside of that success: Patriots fans can stop dreaming about Tom Brady throwing touchdown passes to the best receiver in the NFL.

New England spending big on Brown seemed like a long shot anyway, but the 30-year-old apparently is getting serious about his trade request: He plans to meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney II to iron things out, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will meet with team owner Art Rooney II to discuss his trade request, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

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