As the NFL prepares for an on-time start to the new league year, the Patriots got some business done Sunday night by re-signing veteran safety Devin McCourty. McCourty and his twin brother Jason announced the new contract in a video on their YouTube channel.
“I will be staying here in New England to play alongside this guy, sign me up,” McCourty said in the video, gesturing to his brother seated beside him.
According to multiple league sources, it’s a two-year deal for the 32-year-old, who has been a longtime captain and locker room leader in New England in addition to one of the team’s best defensive players. The NFL Network reported the deal is worth up to $23 million, with $17 million guaranteed.
McCourty had an excellent season in 2019, with five interceptions, and didn’t play as though age was slowing him down. He hasn’t missed a game since 2015, and has missed only five out of 183 in his 10 seasons. That reliability comes as McCourty has been in the top three Patriots defenders by defensive snaps played in every year since at least 2012, the year Pro Football Reference began tracking snaps played.
He was part of an excellent defense with a particularly strong, savvy secondary. In 2019, the Patriots held opposing quarterbacks to a 56.5 percent completion rate, the best (lowest) mark in the league. The defense also ranked second by holding opponents to 180.4 passing yards per game.
Though he’d said multiple times since the end of the season that he would explore his options in free agency, an acknowledgement of the nature of the football business, it always seemed as though he’d be one of the pending free agents whose interest in returning would match up well with the team’s interest in having him back.
That felt especially true once the Patriots picked up the option on cornerback Jason McCourty’s contract last week. The McCourty twins spent the majority of their NFL careers playing for different teams after sharing fields growing up and at Rutgers. They are now both signed on to spend a third year together in New England.
With both brothers having contemplated retirement in past moments, it now seems possible they could both play out their NFL days together with the Patriots.
McCourty joins Matthew Slater, another longtime captain who signed a two-year deal, as veteran players the Patriots have re-signed this weekend.
Though the Patriots need to get younger in the secondary, particularly at safety, McCourty remains part of a strong group. Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, and Terrence Brooks make up an experienced group of safeties, while Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Joejuan Williams are under contract at cornerback.
New England will have to contend with shrinking salary cap room as the league heads into free agency. They have $37 million in cap space according to Over The Cap, and that’s before Slater and McCourty’s new deals. The new salary cap came in at $198.2 million, slightly lower than many around the league were expecting, which also diminishes the Patriots’ flexibility.
Also Sunday, the Patriots gave restricted free agent offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor an original-round tender, according to a league source. The move was first reported by the NFL Network.
Eluemunor’s tender means if any other team wants to sign the 25-year-old to an offer sheet, that team would have to give the Patriots a fifth-round draft pick as compensation. (He was drafted in the fifth round in 2017.) An original-round RFA tender is projected to come with a salary of $2.1 million in 2020.
Eluemunor, 6-foot-4 and 335 pounds, played in 10 games for the Patriots this past season, mostly on special teams. He was acquired via trade with Baltimore on Aug. 29 along with a sixth-rounder for a fourth-round pick.