Could Colts Court Patriots Safety Devin McCourty?


The Indianapolis Colts have a number of holes to address this offseason, with one of the biggest being at the starting safety position. While the team could look to upgrade at safety by selecting one early in this year’s NFL Draft, another option is to sign a veteran safety through free agency.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates an interception during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The best safety on the free agent market (and by a large margin) is the New England Patriots Devin McCourty. The 5’10”, 195 pound defender is one of the best safeties in the NFL, as he had 68 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2 interceptions in 16 starts this past season. McCourty was not only one of the best players, but also a veteran leader for this year’s New England Patriots Super Bowl championship defense.

The 5th-year veteran has consistently played a great centerfield for the Patriots, since being a 1st round pick out of Rutgers in the 2010 NFL Draft. He’s a 2x All-Pro and a “would-be” 2x Pro Bowler, had he not had to miss this year’s all-star game because of the Super Bowl. It’s worth noting that he has good bloodlines too, as his twin brother, Jason McCourty, plays as a starting cornerback for the Tennessee Titans.

Of course, this discussion could be all-for-not, as the New England Patriots are likely going to do everything in their power to retain him, including slapping him with the rougly $9 million dollar safety franchise tag (should it come to that). The Colts, as well as many other likely suitors, may never even have a realistic chance to bid for his services.

Is McCourty as good as advertised and should he be one of the highest paid safeties in the league? 

According to ProFootballFocus (subscription), McCourty was the 8th best safety overall with a +11.6 overall grade, just one spot behind Colts Pro Bowler Mike Adams. He is just one season removed; however, from being ProFootballFocus top rated safety with a +18.8 overall grade in 2013. As such, signs clearly point to him being an elite player at his position in recent seasons.

Oct 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) runs off the field following a win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium. New England Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 43-17. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

On a team that absolutely has to find an upgrade at safety to play alongside the aforementioned veteran Mike Adams, McCourty would make quite a deal of sense. LaRon Landry is in serious jeopardy of becoming a salary cap casualty, and perhaps rightfully so, as he has been largely ineffective as a starting safety for the Colts after signing such a lucrative contract in the 2013 offseason.

The team lacks viable in-house replacement options, as while Sergio Brown has filled in admirably, he’s ideally best used as a 3rd safety and key special teams contributor on a championship caliber defense.

The Colts lack dynamic defenders at the 2nd and 3rd level of their defense that are 3-tool players. Defenders that can run, cover, and tackle.

McCourty fits that bill. 

However, McCourty is not only going to get paid, he’s going to get paid a lot. His production indicates that he’s been one of the best safeties in the NFL in recent seasons, and at age 27, he’s still in the prime of his NFL career with presumably many great NFL seasons still ahead of him. If not by the New England Patriots, he’ll be compensated accordingly and made one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL, especially coming off a season in which his value is at an all-time high as a Super Bowl Champion.

A few reasonable negatives that could be made for the Colts not signing McCourty would be:

  1. Some of his success could be directly attributable for playing for mastermind Bill Belichick and his defense, meaning that he may not offer the same kind of production in other less safety-friendly defensive schemes. Belichick has had a proven track record of maximizing talent.
  2. Other recent safety mega-contracts given to high profile safeties such as the New Orleans Saints Jairus Byrd and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Dashon Goldson haven’t fared out well for those respective teams.

Still, depending on roster cuts, the Colts could have anywhere from $25-40 million of cap space. The team could clearly afford to bring in a premium safety like McCourty in to help upgrade the position and anchor the defense, even if it would cost them quite a bit.

The defense hasn’t had a dynamic player at the safety position since Bob Sanders, and McCourty could be worth the highly paid premium at the position: