FOXBORO — Since the New England Patriots 2022 season came to a close on Jan. 8 with a 35-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Pats fans and media alike have speculated on the future of long time captain Devin McCourty.
As the 13-year veteran contemplates his future on a professional football field, his former teammate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is doing the same.
Following a brief 40-day flirtation with retirement earlier this year, Brady ultimately decided to return to Tampa Bay for at least one more season. It was a disappointing end to the season for the Bucs and their legendary quarterback, finishing with an 8-9 regular season record and a 31-14 postseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
As both McCourty and Brady are headed to free agency at the start of the league year on March 15, might a dynasty-era reunion entice the pair to reunite in Foxboro this fall?
McCourty, at the very least, entertained the idea on Saturday.
“I think for Tom, it’s figuring it out — and he said that. He’s going to take some time,” McCourty said during an early weekend appearance on NFL Network’s “NFL Gameday Live.” “What I want him to do? Go back to New England. I’ll go back too, if he goes.”
Unlike Brady, McCourty has played his entire career with the Patriots. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, McCourty has been a stalwart in the Pats defense. Following his conversion from cornerback to safety, the Rutgers product has been one of the Pats most prolific on-field defenders, as well as one of its most respected leaders in the locker room.
He has become a three-time Super Bowl champion, as well as being voted to two Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams and the Patriots’ Team of the 2010s.
Despite continuing to play the game he loves at a high-level, retirement rumors have swirled around McCourty for the past few years. Typically, he has been eager to indicate his intention to return. Yet, McCourty’s tone has recently taken a more reflective tone, leading many to believe that he is seriously considering calling it a career.
Conversely, Brady opted to depart New England prior to the start of the 2020 season, joining the Buccaneers during his first voyage through free agency in his two-plus decade career. His decision has led to significant, as Brady and the Bucs qualified for the postseason in each of his three years with the club, winning one Super Bowl title.
Still Brady’s third season in Tampa Bay was less than successful. This, combined with his cryptic, postgame comments about his future, have led many to believe that he has played his final game for the organization. Though retirement is always an option, the consensus thought is that he will return for a 24th NFL season.
Naturally, the subsequent question on everyone’s mind would be, “Where?”
The speculation machine has been churning for quote some time regarding a a possible return for the 45-year-old to the franchise for which he will be forever best-known. Traditionally tight-lipped with public praise for each other, both Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have traded effusive pleasantries throughout the season in various media appearances.
Additionally, several of Brady’s ex-Pats teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, have floated the idea of the veteran quarterback taking his snaps in New England in 2023.
However, McCourty quickly clarified that his comments were more whimsical than literal. For starters, the Patriots currently have a starting quarterback in place, second-year signal caller Mac Jones. In spite of his struggles during the past year, Jones continues to have solid support throughout the locker room. Though Belichick has never been one to shy away from displacing an established starter for the good of his football team, it would likely take a long-term commitment to a quarterback of the future to jettison Jones from the role.
Furthermore, Brady is likely to have other — and potentially more appealing — suitors on the open market. With the novelty of a prodigal son-like homecoming beginning to wear thin, McCourty made an honest prediction about where his friend and ex-teammate may be best suited next season.
“What I think he’s going to do? He’s going to keep playing. I think a team like the Titans, he has (Mike) Vrabel down there that he played with,” McCourty said. “It’s not too far from his family being on the east coast, different than going all the way out to Vegas. I know Josh McDaniels is there, but you go to Tennessee and (they have a) great running back, good defense, they’ll get some more weapons in there for him to throw the ball to. I can see Tom right there, continuing his great career.”
Whether McCourty’s prognostication comes true remains to be seen. In the meantime, the collective eyes of Patriots fandom will be on both he and Brady as the new NFL year approaches .
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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