Devin McCourty Stays With Patriots As Bill Belichick Invests In His Leader

The Patriot Way is not just a slogan that fills New England Patriots fans with pride and Patriots haters with eye-rolls. It is a way of playing and practicing that head coach Bill Belichick believes is at the foundation of the team’s success over the past two decades, and even the most ardent Patriots haters have to concede the results speak for themselves.

But such an ethos only works if the players are willing to buy into it. And perhaps no two players on the 2021 Patriots personified this approach more than safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater. And even with both in their mid-30s and clearly on the downslope of their careers, Belichick is not ready to give away all those years of experience and leadership just yet.

On Sunday, Belichick took the first step toward ensuring those veterans are in place for at least one more season.

McCourty is one of Belichick’s most-favored veterans, along with Slater

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reported Sunday before news of the McCourty signed a one-year, $9 million extension that the Patriots would be aggressive in retaining both McCourty and Slater, in order to maintain what Reiss described as a positive, winning culture around the Patriots.

McCourty (34) and Slater (36) are the two unquestioned team leaders in Foxboro, in age, seniority and leadership. Both indicated earlier this year that they intended to play in 2022, and Belichick made the first of what should be two moves to keep his on-field leadership intact by re-upping McCourty for one year at $9 million, with a cap hit less than that number, because the contract was extended before the original officially expired on Wednesday.

And as if to prove Belichick’s point about McCourty’s team leadership and positive life perspective, the veteran safety announced his new contract on social media by letting his two young children break the news in a heartwarming tweet.

McCourty has not missed a game in the past six seasons and his 24 postseason starts trail only former teammate Tom Brady (47), Jerry Rice (29), and Peyton Manning (27).

Hightower among several expected to be released as cap casualties

While McCourty is back in the fold and Slater is expected to follow shortly, it appears another veteran, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, is headed for free agency, along with tackle Trent Brown and and linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins Sr., as the Patriots attempt to clear vital cap room. Before the McCourty deal, the Patriots had about $10 million available under the cap.

One player Reiss believes could be coming back to the Patriots in free agency is defensive end Trey Flowers, a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in 2015 who is expected to be released this week by the Detroit Lions.

Report has Chargers making a strong play for J.C. Jackson

The re-signing of McCourty likely means the end for cornerback Jackson in Foxboro. The Patriots previously chose not to apply the franchise tag to Jackson, who led the team in interceptions last season, but would have cost the cap-inflexible Patriots $17 million had they franchised him.

And while the ink was drying on McCourty’s deal, Mike Giardi of NFL Network reported that the Los Angeles Chargers, fresh off their acquisition of linebacker Khalil Mack on Thursday, were making a strong push to sign Jackson. The Chargers, who expect to lose Chris Harris Jr. in free agency, would have a formidable defense with Mack and Joey Bosa rushing the quarterback and Jackson defending in the secondary, especially after Russell Wilson joined the AFC West earlier this week.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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