The New York Giants are coming off a season in which they gave then-defensive coordinator James Bettcher a veteran safety he was familiar and comfortable with to quarterback the back end of his defense.
Things didn’t work out well with 35-year-old Antoine Bethea, who is actually still on the current roster but shouldn’t be on the 2020 team. Bethea did have 110 tackles, the eight time in his 14-year career he surpassed the 100 mark. The Giants’ pass defense was horrific, however. They finished 28th in the NFL in passer rating against and only the Oakland Raiders (16) gave up more than 15 pass plays of 40+ yards surrendered by the Giants.
As much as everyone rightly pointed to the inexperience of so many of the Giants’ cornerbacks, Bethea’s declining athleticism was also a problem. Bettcher favored a single-high safety look and Bethea, used as a free safety on 802 of 1,107 snaps, simply no longer had the range to be a true impact player in that role. His passer rating against was 133.8 and Bethea allowed 19.3 yards per reception.
Do the Giants want to follow a similar path with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, a former New England Patriots assistant? If so, they could be interested in bringing long-time Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who played at Rutgers and is a Montvale, N.J. native, home to finish his career.
Age: 33 during 2020 season
Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 195 pounds
Experience: 10 seasons
2019 base salary: $9 million | Cap hit: $13.435 million
2019 stats: Games: 16: | Snaps: 946 | Tackles: 58 | Interceptions: 5 | Passes defensed: 7 | Forced fumbles: 2 | Fumble recoveries: 1
Pro Football Focus: Overall grade: 80.7 | Pass defense: 88.3 | Run defense: 65.3 | Passer rating against: 41.8 (19 receptions, 31 targets, 6.8 yards per catch allowed, 1 touchdown)
From Bernd Buchmasser of SB Nation’s Pats Pulpit:
McCourty has played 10 seasons in the NFL, but 2019 might just have been his best one to date: the team captain led all Patriots defenders in playing time — he was on the field for 1,008 of 1,070 defensive snaps (94.2%) — and registered five interceptions while giving up only 10 completions on 27 targets for just 45 yards and a touchdown.
McCourty’s value to New England’s top-ranked scoring defense cannot be underestimated as he serves not just as a chess piece capable of moving all over the formation, but also a leader on and off the field as well as a key communicator within the secondary. Even though he was neither voted to the Pro Bowl nor the All-Pro team, the 32-year-old certainly belongs on the list of the NFL’s premier safeties.
That all being said, anything but McCourty returning to the Patriots off his second stint as an unrestricted free agent would be a major surprise: he is too valuable to the team’s defensive operation and the organization as a whole not to be brought back. Money will obviously be a factor when it comes to New England re-signing him, but a solution should be expected to be found by both parties.
What does this mean for the Giants? They either go a bit over board with their offer, something they could do given their cap space, or have to look elsewhere for safety help. McCourty would certainly be an intriguing piece to be added to the club’s defensive backfield given his experience and elite skillset, but one has to wonder whether or not overpaying for a soon-to-be 33-year-old is sound economics.
Pro Football Focus, using projections from Over the Cap, expects McCourty to command a contract of two years and $20 million with $10 million guaranteed. That, of course, is basically a one-year, $10 million deal.
The only thing keeping McCourty from being higher on the list is age, as he enters the 2020 season at 33 years old. McCourty exemplifies what you want in a “safe” safety, as he’s rarely out of position in the passing game and is a sure tackler in space with just 71 career misses on 890 tackle attempts. While McCourty has dabbled in multiple roles playing closer to the line of scrimmage or covering tight ends, he’s at his best as a deep free safety where he will rarely bust coverages and frequently take advantage of quarterback mistakes when presented.
McCourty to the Giants will only happen, of course, if McCourty wants to leave New England. This is only conjecture, but perhaps whether that is the case or not will depend on whether the Patriots ultimately bring back Tom Brady for one more run or decide it is time to start over.
The Giants would also have to move on from Bethea, a move that seems like a no-brainer as it will save $2.75 million in cap space while incurring only $125,000 in dead money.
Finally, the new Giants coaching staff has to make a decision on whether or not it believes Julian Love is a free safety or if his future is elsewhere on defense.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? Would you be in favor of the Giants brining McCourty home to both help the defense and to help Graham and new head coach Joe Judge install the defense and establish the culture they are hoping for?