Jason McCourty left little doubt Wednesday that he wants to continue playing.
The former Patriots cornerback, who played in 16 games and started 11 for New England in 2020, is a free agent and is shopping for a new home, as he told "Good Morning Football:"
“Yeah, this year in free agency has been different, obviously with the cap and everything, as a result of 2020. I just want to be somewhere I’m wanted and an opportunity to compete and help the guys around me. As an older player now, I really look forward and love being able to mentor younger guys, and be able to kind of help them grow, as well as going out there competing and trying to win games.
“So, wherever that may be, I’m going to be excited. This will be Year 13, so each year you’re closer to the end. This could be it. I’m just excited to get somewhere and play football.”
The Pats spent nearly $200 million in guaranteed money in free agency but didn’t add another full-time cornerback, although signee Jalen Mills has experience at corner and safety. There are still a couple things to hash out at that position before the Pats could even consider bringing McCourty back.
Stephon Gilmore is due either a contract extension or a trade out of town. No one could blame the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year of not wanting to play out the last year of his contract at just a $7 million base salary.
And the Pats won’t know until late April whether J.C. Jackson is going to be back. New England gave him a second-round tender — meaning they could lose him for a second-round pick or they could retain him for the second-round tender of $3.384 million for 2021.
With those two question marks still in play, here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of re-signing McCourty:
As he mentioned, the 33-year-old (he’ll turn 34 in August) enjoys mentoring younger players and a team with a lot of turnover from 2020 to 2021, both with free-agent additions and upcoming draft picks, could use as much leadership as it could get.
McCourty had a rough 2020 season. His opposing passer rating when targeted was 131.4, the worst by any Pats player over the past three seasons and fourth-worst among cornerbacks targeted at least 30 times, according to pro-football-reference.com. That was a far cry from his 54.7 in 2019. Also, opposing quarterbacks completed 64.4 percent of their passes against him and he was charged with allowing five touchdown passes in 2020.
McCourty and his twin brother Devin, who is signed for 2021, are great citizens and pillars of the community. Although his $5.5 million cap hit from last season would be a little rich at his age, Jason might be willing to take a pay cut to stay and try to win another ring with his brother on the revamped defense. If he bounces back from last season’s poor statistical showing, he could be a strong backup, especially if injuries hit again.
If Jackson and Gilmore stick around, the Pats would probably be better off getting younger and adding cornerback help through the draft. Joejuan Williams (54.5 percent opponents’ completion percentage) showed promise last season, while Jonathan Jones took a step forward after a disappointing 2019 performance.
McCourty has experience at safety, and that kind of versatility always is helpful for a defense.
Free agent acquisition Jalen Mills also has cornerback and safety experience in the NFL.