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Patriots' McCourty: Franchise tag player-friendly now

Devin McCourty remains the linchpin of the New England Patriots' defensive backfield. The soon-to-be free agent is so vital to Bill Belichick's scheme that the franchise tag seems a logical choice for the team to employ before the March 2 deadline.

Speaking at Lowell High School on Wednesday -- where he was talking to students about the importance of healthy eating -- the safety said his representatives have been in discussions with the Pats all season, but nothing about the tag has been mentioned.

While many players scoff at the idea of being franchise tagged, McCourty took an alternate route when explaining why he's not fretting about his future.

"I've kind of broken it down as worst-case scenario would be that I get franchised and come back to play for another year here," he said, per CSNNE's Phil Perry. "To me that's no reason to stress. I love it here. The franchise tag is player-friendly now. It's a good number."

It's odd to hear a player call the franchise tag "player-friendly" when most would rather get a long-term deal done. But for an in-his-prime Pro Bowler like the 27-year-old McCourty, the tag could provide a good chunk of change and place him in position to get a long-term deal in a year, further maximizing his earning potential (even as his agent squirms worrying about injury). 

NFL Media's Albert Breer reported that the tag for safeties will fall to around $9.6 million this season. It's a number McCourty clearly doesn't mind playing under and would create a baseline for negotiations on a long-term deal.

If the Pats don't tag McCourty they could risk a needy team with cap space -- and there are several -- poaching one of their most important players.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews free agency and tells you which big-name players could be released. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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