|McCourty will really have something to celebrate when he sees the figures on his next contract|
The Patriots will face a number of interesting financial decisions next offseason, with a number of productive young players (Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Marcus Cannon) and veterans (some guy named Darrelle Revis, Matthew Slater, Tommy Kelly) due to hit free agency. However, one of the team's biggest priorities will be retaining the services of Devin McCourty, whose rookie deal is set to expire after this season. According to the NFL Network's Albert Breer, the Pats have gotten off to a head start on that process.
The Patriots have reached out to start contract talks with veteran S Devin McCourty. He's due $3.97M in the final year of his rookie deal.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) June 6, 2014
McCourty has established himself as a core player in his four year Patriots career since being a first round pick back in 2010. He's started 61 of 64 games in that span while making two Pro Bowls, one each at corner and safety. His midseason move to safety in 2012 helped to solidify what was a shaky secondary, and he was the highest graded safety in the league last year, his first full season at the position, by ProFootballFocus.
According to MassLive.com, "nothing substantial" has developed yet between the two sides, but that isn't surprising considering how early they are in the negotiation process. McCourty almost certainly won't match the $10 million a year average of the new deal signed this offseason by Seattle's Earl Thomas, but he would almost certainly get something in the $8-9 million a year range currently occupied by Jairus Byrd, Eric Berry, Dashon Goldson and Eric Weddle if he were to hit the open market.
The fact that the team is already entering contract talks a year before his deal expires indicates an understandly strong level of interest in keeping McCourty around. McCourty has blossomed not only as a player but also as a leader in New England, as his election as a team captain in just his fourth season proved. He's also quickly become a very active and visible member of the community who represents the organization well (which, make no mistake, is a plus in the post-Hernandez era).
Signing McCourty to an extension now would bring multiple benefits to the Patriots beyond the obvious of keeping one of their best young players. For starters, the team would likely save some money on the deal, as McCourty's market value will likely go up if he plays a full year with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in his secondary. Furthermore, taking care of McCourty now will allow the team to focus entirely on a long-term deal for Revis next year, which will almost undoubtedly be the top priority of the offseason.
Finally, the Patriots could actually wind up saving some cap space this year by signing McCourty to an extension and pushing that new money into future years, when the cap is widely expected to continue to rise. McCourty currently carries a cap hit of $5.115 million, the result of escalators earned throughout the past four seasons.
My position on McCourty has been clear from the start, and remains unchanged: pay the man. Some Pats fans have taken to calling him overated, citing a lack of big, game-changing plays, but McCourty's smarts, range and positioning allow him to take away plenty of plays from the opposition, contributions that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. Simply put, there aren't many players out there with his combination of production, leadership, durability and football intelligence, and his presence on the back end of the defense would be greatly missed if he were allowed to leave.