The Patriots signed the last of their draft picks today when they inked first-round corner Devin McCourty to a 5-year contract worth $13.2 million. All 12 of the Pats’ draft picks will be in camp and on time to learn and hopefully contribute to the team’s success this season. McCourty will be competing with last year’s second-round pick, Darius Butler, for the starting cornerback spot opposite Leigh Bodden. At worst, McCourty will likely be the team’s nickel corner and will also contribute on special teams, as most rookies are expected to do. Butler has more natural athletic ability and a year in the system to his advantage, while McCourty is more of a complete corner, one who can contribute against the run. Butler vs. McCourty will be one of the key battles to focus on in training camp.
Yesterday, it was reported that OLB Shawn Crable was among two other players who were placed on the active/PUP list. Apparently, the Patriots have had enough of the third-round pick who has never played in an NFL game since he was drafted in 2008, as he was cut today. A league source told the Boston Globe that Crable was hurt again, which was why he was placed on the PUP list. After finishing his first two seasons on IR, the Pats made sure he didn’t make it a third. After not contributing during his first two seasons, the hope was that he could add something to a lackluster linebacking corps. His release leaves an already thin position a little thinner.
At OLB, the Pats now have Tully Banta-Cain, second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham, Derrick Burgess, Pierre Woods, Rob Ninkovich, and free agent signing Marques Murrell. Unless Cunningham steps onto the field and plays at an elite level or Derrick Burgess is more effective after spending a year in the Patriots’ system, this group is very thin and does not have a true starter among them. Banta-Cain is a good 3rd down pass rusher but has not proven he can be a three-down linebacker. The rest of the group has little-to-no starting experience at OLB. If there’s a surprise veteran cut or a trade possibility, the Patriots should jump at any quality opportunity that presents itself. Outside linebacker is unquestionably the weakest position on the team, and it’s too important to ignore. If the team has playoff aspirations, this position needs to solidified.