Patriots

Devin McCourty believes the Patriots don’t need to make a big addition at safety to replace him

"Everyone in NE wants a big name signed for safety but Dug Pep and AP have played GREAT BALL. LET THEM COOK!!!!!"

Kyle Dugger was one of the Patriots' top players in 2022. AP Photo/Greg M. Coope

When Devin McCourty announced his retirement earlier in March, many wondered who the Patriots would bring in to replace him at free safety as they lack bodies at the position.

However, the man himself doesn’t believe the team needs to bring in an outsider to replace him. On Friday, McCourty gave a ringing endorsement of the most notable safeties currently on the Patriots’ roster.

“Everyone in NE wants a big name signed for safety but Dug (Kyle Dugger) Pep (Jabrill Peppers) and AP (Adrian Phillips) have played GREAT BALL,” McCourty wrote in a tweet. “LET THEM COOK!!!!!”

There’s some speculation that the Patriots could replace McCourty with an internal option. But none of the players he mentioned in his tweet is the prototypical free safety type. Those three players typically played closer to the line of scrimmage, while McCourty was the furthest back.

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Because of that, McCourty thinks this Patriots’ safety group could play at a high level in 2023.

“Nah I think they have a chance to be better …,” McCourty wrote in a tweet replying to a fan asking if he felt the Patriots needed someone to replace him. “everyone knew where I was going to be … with this group no one know who will be where …. I’m excited to watch them.”

The Patriots’ safety room is certainly talented, even without McCourty. Dugger emerged in his third year, recording 78 combined tackles and three interceptions last season. Phillips has been a reliable veteran during his time with the Patriots, recording 66 combined tackles last season after having 92 combined tackles and four interceptions the year prior. Peppers, who plays more inside-the-box, has a first-round pedigree and had 60 combined tackles last season, his first full season after tearing his ACL.

Of those three players, Dugger’s been the one most commonly viewed as a possible free safety considering his playmaking ability plus his strong open-field tackling. However, Pro Football Focus credited him for playing just 82 snaps at free safety last season. Phillips, on the other hand, recorded 199 snaps at free safety last season and once recorded 296 snaps at the position during one of his six seasons with the Chargers, per PFF.

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The Patriots’ approach in free agency so far might suggest that they’re doing what McCourty believes they should do. Many top safety names have already been signed, leaving slim pickings for the Patriots.

New England has shown interest in outside safety options so far this offseason. The Patriots hosted former Rams safety Taylor Rapp for a visit following the start of free agency this past week. Rapp is more of a free safety than the aforementioned players, recording 524 snaps at the position last season, per PFF. The four-year pro had 92 combined tackles and two interceptions last season.

A pair of other internal options have also been speculated to replace McCourty at free safety. But one of those options is no longer on the team as Jalen Mills was released on Friday, and with Mills’s departure, it appears Jonathan Jones will remain at boundary corner, where he moved to last season.

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