New England Patriots Internal Free Agent Priorities – Part Three of Six: Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty


iFeb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick celebrates with cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) after beating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are moving on from their 2014 Super Bowl Championship season which culminated in a dramatic 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. For the Patriots coaches, front office and scouting staff it is time to roll up their sleeves and get to work on catching up to the rest of the NFL teams who got a head start on the offseason.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates after the game against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Seahawks 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few weeks the regional draft combines begin and is capped off by the national NFL combine starting on February 17. The Patriots also have a deadline of March 2 as far as applying the franchise tag to internal free agent players who cannot work out a long-term deal and the team wants to keep.  Free agency begins on March 7 with teams able to negotiate with unrestricted free agents and on March 10 at 4PM the league year begins and players begin to officially sign with new teams.  They have a lot of work to do in a small window of time.


With that, it seems the ideal time to take a look at the internal free agents and cap numbers of salaried veterans in New England where tough decisions need to be made as far as roster management. Kicking off the six-part series was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and part two looked at a trio of veteran contributors in wide receiver Danny Amendola, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Now part three gets to the Pro Bowl secondary players looking at cornerback Darrelle Revis and free safety Devin McCourty:


OFFSEASON PRIORITY THREE OF SIX: Darrelle Revis & Devin McCourty

Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Darrelle Revis is only assumed to be a free agent in 2015 simply because he is very unlikely to take up $25 million on the New England salary cap on his current deal which calls for a $12.5 million roster bonus and $7.5 million base salary (all salary data from While the Patriots can cut Revis and just save $20 million against the salary cap, they would have to replace his Pro Bowl production at cornerback.  Releasing him and renegotiating would risk letting a cornerback needy team like division rival New York or former coach Rex Ryan in Buffalo swoop in to grab him. The team has to make a decision soon, as he is due a $12 million roster bonus at the beginning of the 2015 league year.


Devin McCourty does not garner the publicity of Revis, but he is just as vital to the defense. Re-watching the Patriots-Seahawks 2012 match-up in preparation for the Super Bowl highlighted how poorly the safety play was in New England for years prior to McCourty stabilizing the free safety position. McCourty plays centerfield as well as anyone in the NFL and is a textbook tackler who rarely misses.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Revis will need to be signed to a long-term extension to replace his final bloated season in 2015 as $25 million in cap space being taken up by one player is excessive. The Patriots are going to be motivated to keep Revis off the open market with New York Jets owner Woody Johnson already having spoken publicly about his desire to bring him back to New York and former head coach Rex Ryan landing in Buffalo and never shy about his desire to have Revis in his defensive backfield.


Revis made $12 million last year and counted just $7 million against the salary cap. The Patriots are going to have Revis count $5 million against the salary cap even if they release him, so it is in their best interest to cut down that cap charge while keeping him from their division rivals. Patrick Peterson is earning $14 million per year which is second for cornerbacks behind Richard Sherman’s $14.01 average salary per season. To keep Revis, they will have to give him at least that amount of money and come close to the $40 million in guarantees that Sherman received.


The Patriots need to find a way to give the money to Revis that will keep him in New England without blowing up the salary cap. Giving him a substantial signing bonus will be key to keep Revis happy and allow the team to pro-rate the bonus over the length of the deal to limit the cap charges in 2015 and beyond.  Sherman’s cap number next year is just $12.2 million and stays in the $12 to $14 million per season range over the next three years. A deal like that saves $10 million in cap space in 2015 and keeps his number in the Tom Brady range over the next few years as well.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) breaks up a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

New England also has to deal with the impending free agency of Devin McCourty. Again looking at the precedent set in Seattle, McCourty will have to get a deal like Earl Thomas did last year when the Seahawks tacked four years and $40 million with almost $28 million guaranteed. The Seahawks were able to work out the extension prior to free agency and set the top of the market along with New Orleans who plucked Jairus Byrd from Buffalo with a six year and $54 million deal.


Like Revis, McCourty will become one of the key prizes on the free agent market if New England cannot re-sign him this month.  Considering the lack of free agent safeties with McCourty’s coverage skills, his impending free agency could become a bidding war that leaves New England pulling out of the process. The best safeties potentially available besides McCourty include veteran Dawan Landry (NY Jets), Louis Delmas (Miami), Antrel Rolle (NY Giants), Nate Allen (Philadelphia), and George Wilson (Tennessee).


There are no guarantees that McCourty or Revis will re-sign and if either hits free agency, it thrusts them to the top of the market not just at their respective position, but for all defensive players. Neither one is going to give New England any kind of “home-town” or “Super Bowl” discount. Revis expects to be the highest paid cornerback in football next year. He bet on himself with his deal with New England and re-established his standing as the best cornerback in football and won a ring. That is a “mission accomplished” season.


Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs the ball against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Devin McCourty may have been drafted in New England and developed under the tutelage of Bill Belichick, but he too has won his ring. If New England does not use the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it could be an option for McCourty as it would cost just $7.25 million. McCourty is a free agent for the first time and could be looking to test the market and capitalize on his earning potential. Also, do not discount the allure of going to Tennessee (who has tons of cap space) and reuniting in the secondary with his twin brother Jason McCourty.


The other consideration with McCourty involves his position. McCourty went to the Pro Bowl as a cornerback as a rookie, and his move to safety had nothing to do with his skills diminishing as he was the Patriots’ top cornerback. The move was due to the team being in desperate need for stability at free safety after a series of strong safeties miscast as free safeties gave up big play after big play over the top of the secondary week-after-week. McCourty may be looking to move back to cornerback and go to another team for the opportunity.

Revis has to be the top priority for New England.  Second year third-round draft pick Duron Harmon has showed some promise stepping in for McCourty in small doses and has the speed and range to play the free safety position in the NFL. However, slapping the franchise tag on McCourty is possible if New England clears cap space elsewhere (Mayo, Amendola, Wilfork, Revis, or another place). The Patriots have no one capable of stepping in for Revis as he is practically irreplaceable. There are no other cornerbacks on the market or available via trade that can replicate the impact of Revis on the Belichick defense. If forced to choose one due to cap concerns, it has to be Revis over McCourty.