Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through Twitter, Facebook, and email. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.
Everyone talks about how the Patriots have a great defense, but isn’t that going to change next year? Devin McCourty is a free agent, so are Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and it’s a pretty old group as it is. I’m not asking if the defense will be one of the better ones in the league again, though. I’m wondering who you think the first priority should be to keep. – Steve C.
To me, it’s a pretty easy choice: McCourty. He’s not that young anymore – he’ll turn 33 in August – but he’s still an excellent, rangy safety who is the nerve center of that defense. While he didn’t put up huge numbers this year after picking off five passes in the first five weeks, he doesn’t appear to have lost a step. He’d be the priority.
I’d let Van Noy walk if he gets a steep offer, and he probably will. He’s a versatile player and a good pass rusher (7.5 sacks this year), but I’m not sure he’s irreplaceable. I’d prefer to keep Collins even though most of his best plays this season came in the first half-dozen games. He’s not much against the run, but his athleticism is rare, and he seems happy here this time around.
One other important defensive free-agent you left off: Danny Shelton, who was a rock in the run game for most of the season. He really had a fine year, and I hope he sticks around. I bet he’s a higher priority than we realize.
But my pick is McCourty. And it’s a pretty easy one.
What does everyone else think? Who should be the priority among the Patriots’ defensive free agents? I’ll hear you in the comments.