McCourty viewed as most underrated

When thinking about Patriots safety Devin McCourty, a few things come to mind.

Smart. Communicator. Good ball skills. Physical. Leader.

Here's another one for consideration: Underrated.

In an Insider piece now posted on ESPN.com, Gordon McGuinness uses Pro Football Focus metrics to pick three NFL players he views as the most underrated in the NFL, and McCourty tops the list.

"Few seem to want to mention him alongside the likes of Earl Thomas as players at the top of the position, but when you look at his play in 2013, when he had seven pass breakups and one interception from the 27 passes thrown into his coverage, it's hard to argue his value," McGuinness writes.

How McCourty is rated by the Patriots figures to come into sharper focus at some point over the next 10 months because the fifth-year pro enters the final year of his contract. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.92 million, which is a result of him hitting several escalators to increase the value of the final year of the deal.

The expectation is that the Patriots and McCourty will be talking about an extension. If the sides strike a deal that puts McCourty among the game's top-paid safeties, the underrated label would no longer fit.

It does now.