McCourty, who was ranked No. 2 on our list of 101 free agents set to hit the market, would have been extremely difficult for the Patriots to replace. There just aren't that many good "centerfield" safeties in the league, and McCourty has grown into a leadership position on the New England defense. Of the current Patriots, McCourty has always seemed like the successor to Vince Wilfork as the Patriots' defender likely to remain with the team for a decade. (As Wilfork, Willie McGinest, and many others know, there aren't many "Patriots for life.")
"I know we can win here. We've already done it," McCourty said.
Bill Belichick must be extremely relieved after finishing this deal. Rapoport reports that McCourty turned down more money elsewhere in an aggressive market. The Eagles and Giants both wanted him badly, and now must look to free-agent options like Antrel Rolle and Rahim Moore as fallback options. Having a safety like McCourty allows Belichick to play more man coverage and get creative with his pressure schemes, knowing that McCourty can erase mistakes in front of him. Of course, Darrelle Revis was just as valuable to the rebuilt New England secondary.
With McCourty under contract, attention will now turn to Revis' deal. He's due $20 million in 2015, including a huge roster bonus due Tuesday. The Patriots have been working on keeping both players, so it wouldn't be fair to say the team prioritized McCourty over Revis. But McCourty's contract always was the simpler one to get done. Tom Curran of Comcast Sports New England wrote earlier Sunday it was a "pretty good bet" that the team keeps both players. They are halfway home.