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Patriots News 03-12, Thoughts On Devin McCourty’s Retirement

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
March 12, 2023 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 03-12, Thoughts On Devin McCourty’s Retirement(PHOTO: Steve Balestrieri - PatsFans.com)

🕑 Read Time: 6 minutes

Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes. Free agency starts this week on Wednesday at 4:00 pm when the league’s 2023 season officially starts. And then look for a slew of signings to be announced immediately. 

But the legal tampering period has already begun, ok. Teams “are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents” during the two-day window (March 13-15)  ahead of free agency, per the NFL. The “legal tampering window” will officially open at noon ET tomorrow, March 13.

But you can rest assured there are plenty of back-channel conversations already ongoing. And then the feeding frenzy will start. And the afternoon crowd will immediately wonder, “when will Bill and the Patriots wake up?!?” 

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Raekwon McMillan: The Patriots resigned free agent linebacker Raekwon McMillan this week, adding some depth to the roster. McMillan, a 6’2, 242 off-the-ball linebacker was first signed by the Patriots in 2021. He had an impressive training camp before tearing an ACL that summer. 

McMillan returned in 2022 and didn’t play as big a role as was envisioned a year before, only logging in about 25 percent of the defensive snaps. He did play about 66 percent of the special teams’ snaps. He did contribute a sack and five tackles for loss (TFL), and scored a TD on a fumble recovery against the Cardinals. His re-signing with the team provides good depth at the position with Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai. 

James Ferentz: The Patriots’ backup interior OL signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million with $200,000 guaranteed. Ferentz has been with the team as a reserve for five years and has played all three interior OL positions. 

He’s not a starter, but he did start three games for center David Andrews last year. Bill Belichick has always liked Ferentz, and he’ll compete for backup reps and a roster spot with other backups who were injured a year ago, guard Chasen Hines, center Kody Russey, and Bill Murray. 

The news of this signing got some fans on social media incensed at Bill Belichick, lamenting that the team is signing “bargain basement” players. Free agency hasn’t started, and all 32 teams sign bottom-of-the-roster players for depth. R-E-L-A-X. There will be plenty of time for outrage next week after the team doesn’t sign someone’s FA binky.  

Jake Bailey: This one doesn’t come as a big surprise…the Patriots have released former All-Pro punter Jake Bailey after two disappointing injury-plagued seasons in a row, and despite the fact that he signed a big extension last August that made him one of the league’s highest-paid punters. 

Bailey only appeared in nine games in 2022 and had a poor campaign before being placed on IR; he was later suspended and filed a grievance against the team. His release means the team will look for a new punter this spring. 

Isaiah Wynn: The former 1st round draft pick, who never quite lived up to his draft position due to injuries, inconsistent play, and penchant for bad penalties, has hit free agency, and judging from his post on Twitter, he has no confidence problem. 

“You gotta be up at least 5M’s fo me to een converse with ya. Grab bout 8 generations worth of y’all’s entire life savings, then we can possibly rap. Possibly,” Wynn posted. 

That’s a pretty cocky statement, but perhaps a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered. 

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. We were back this past week, discussing free agency, the 2023 NFL Combine, and team needs

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Devin McCourty, Red Jacket Sizing, Aisle 1 

The Patriots have gradually had to deal with many of their iconic players retiring after sustained success with the team. On Friday, they learned that another one was hanging it up after more than a decade of excellence, both on and off the field. 

Devin McCourty on Friday announced that he was retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons and 12 as a captain with the team. 

“I’m officially retiring from the NFL. It has been a great ride,” McCourty said in a video with his brother Jason on Instagram. “I think it’s always tough to come to the end. This whole offseason has been so much back-and-forth for me mentally, but ultimately I think this is the best decision for me, for my family, and my career.”

His value to the team goes beyond mere stats. Although his were not shabby either. He appeared in 205 regular season games and made 971 tackles, with 35 INTs (3rd all-time on the team), with 110 passes defensed, and 2 INT returned for TDs. He returned a kickoff 104 yards for a TD in 2011 against the Jets. He was voted to the Pro Bowl 4 times and an All-Pro 3 times.

He appeared in 24 playoff games (the most in NFL history for a defensive back) and added two more INTs and 118 tackles. How will the Patriots opt to replace McCourty in 2023? 

They may opt to sign or trade for a veteran, and some good names could be brought in. If they decide to draft a FS in the upcoming draft, there are some really good ones available as well, but they could move Jalen Mills from corner to free safety and give the rookie time to find his feet in the pros. But those will be some big shoes to fill. 

McCourty was remarkably durable during his 13-year career as a Patriot, missing only five games out the 205 he played. He epitomized many of the traits that Belichick looked to. Smart, passionate about his craft, accountable, and consistent.

McCourty exhibited leadership from Day 1 as a Patriot, and that never changed…if anything, he was an even bigger influence as a leader in 2022. But for a player on veteran-laden Bill Belichick teams to be voted as a captain in his second season speaks volumes about his leadership.

But like McCourty himself, a younger player will have to step up and assume that leadership mantle. The player may retire, but the machine keeps chugging along. And successful teams find ways to address these type of losses. But McCourty’s leaving is not just other player retiring. He’s been invaluable and the team knows this.

He was drafted (27th overall) by the Patriots as a cornerback but moved to free safety in 2012 after injuries took a toll there. And never looked back. Like many of the most successful players under Belichick, McCourty was never one to worry about personal stats and put those far on the back burner, putting the team first. He did admit playing with his brother on the 2018 Super Bowl-winning team was special. Who would argue?

And he gave back to the community as much as he did to the team on the field. 

Bill Belichick spoke glowingly about McCourty in a statement that was released after McCourty announced his retirement. 

“It is a rare group of players who win games at a historic rate, exude team culture, lead, win awards, and win championships. And then there is Devin McCourty,” Belichick said. 

“Devin did all of those things as a player and more. But, what I think of first when I think of Devin is the type of man he is, his character, his values and how high he raised the bar for spreading goodness and justice in the community. For 13 years, Devin made everyone in our organization feel better and be better because of who he is — a pillar of professionalism, unselfishness, work ethic, preparation, intelligence and performance. I am excited to see him bring those same traits to his next chapter and brighten the lives of even more people.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also voiced similar kudos about McCourty. 

“As a Patriots fan, it’s always bittersweet to see such an iconic player announce his retirement, but I couldn’t be happier for Devin, Michelle, and the McCourty family or more thankful to his mother, Phyllis,” Kraft said. 

“Through his individual performance and overall leadership, Devin has been such an important part of the success we have enjoyed over the past 13 seasons, including each of our last three Super Bowl championships. As great as his contributions were on the field, he made an even greater impact in the community, taking a leadership role in his advocacy for finding a cure for sickle cell anemia, effecting legislative change for criminal justice reform, and championing countless other educational and economical advancement initiatives. 

“We couldn’t have asked for a better leader and ambassador, both on and off the field.”

McCourty was always forthcoming and accountable with the media and was always pleasant to be around, in my own limited media access through the years. I’ll always remember taking my wife to her pain management doctor, who was located in the Brigham and Women’s building that is visible from the stadium on an off day during camp one year, and in came McCourty toting his young daughter. We spoke for just a couple of moments about kids and what they bring to their parents’ lives, and he brightened up, totally relaxed on his off day. “This is daddy-daughter time,” he said. “And it is what’s all about.” 

All the best in your retirement. 

______________

“It’s hard to put a value on Devin McCourty,”… “From a football player, from the things he’s done in the community, just who he is as a mentor — for myself and other guys who’ve come in, guys he’s left an impression on who may not have been on the team more than a week. He’s that type of guy who can leave an impression on them… He’s paved the way for me, and I’m just trying to fill those steps.”

Patriots free agent cornerback Jonathan Jones, talking about retired free safety Devin McCourty in an interview with Phil Perry this week on NBC Sports Boston. 

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

**Cover photo of Devin McCourty at Patriots training camp, 2015, by Steve Balestrieri, PatsFans.com.**

 

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


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