FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have acquired cornerback Jason McCourty and a 2018 seventh-round pick from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2018 sixth-round pick, and here are some quick-hit thoughts on the trade:
Economics highlight, in part, why the Patriots traded for a player set to be released. The Browns planned to release McCourty on Thursday, so why would the Patriots trade for a player they could have signed as a free agent? First, to ensure they wouldn't lose McCourty to another team. And second, because the terms of McCourty's contract must have been viewed as favorable to the club -- he is scheduled to earn $2.375 million in base salary and has a $375,000 roster bonus (due Friday) and can earn $250,000 more in per-game roster bonuses. Former Patriots assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi believes McCourty could have commanded more on the open market. Perhaps coach Bill Belichick felt the presence of those with Patriots ties now in other organizations (e.g. Matt Patricia in Detroit) also could have driven up the price.
Closer look at the draft-pick exchange. To land McCourty, the Patriots gave up the 205th overall pick in the draft and acquired the 219th pick (first selection of the seventh round). That's a 14-pick drop, and is similar to last year's trade in which the Patriots gave up a second-round pick (64) in exchange for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third-round pick (72). The Patriots obviously hope this one works out better than the Ealy deal, as Ealy didn't make it out of training camp and the Patriots lost a chance to draft running back Alvin Kamara (No. 67) and center/guard Dan Feeney (No. 71), among others, by making that eight-pick drop. The quality of prospects obviously is not as strong later in the draft.
Where he fits on defense. McCourty is 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, and he has the type of scheme flexibility that has value to the Patriots, who were in sub packages about 90 percent of the snaps in 2017. The Patriots have Stephon Gilmore locking down one top corner spot, and McCourty should challenge Eric Rowe for the starting job opposite of him. Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz are also on the depth chart. McCourty, who could fill some safety-type responsibilities in certain packages, started 14 games last season for the Browns.
McCourty has never played in the playoffs. Part of the appeal for McCourty, in addition to playing with his twin brother, Devin, has to be the chance to appear in the playoffs. He hasn't played in a playoff game in his career, while Devin has been in 19 career playoff games.
Mama McCourty is going to be happy. No more split jerseys for Mama McCourty.