The Giants are reportedly hosting defensive back Jason McCourty, who’s yet to locate a new team in free agency.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Giants will be hosting veteran free-agent defensive back Jason McCourty. The 33-year-old’s two-year contract with the Patriots (which he signed ahead of the 2019 campaign) expired this offseason — the fact he’s yet to find a new team isn’t surprising given the declining ability that comes with his increasing age.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 16, 2021
This wouldn’t be a significant signing — there’s no way the Giants would ink him to the type of deal they provided cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who signed a three-year contract with Big Blue earlier this offseason.
But at least meeting with the defensive back does make some sort of sense.
McCourty possesses a prior connection to Giants head coach Joe Judge, who served as the Patriots special teams coordinator for the first two seasons of Jason’s three-year stint (2018-20) in New England. Past links have led to a number of coaching hires and player acquisitions within this organization over the past year or so (Logan Ryan’s connection with Judge, Blake Martinez’s connection with Patrick Graham, Judge’s connection with Graham, to name a few).
Some believed the Giants were going to consider signing McCourty this offseason, and while a contract agreement has yet to occur, there are positives and negatives to the possible acquisition.
Why a potential signing of Jason McCourty could work
As was previously mentioned, it wouldn’t be a huge contract; it may not even be as large as Logan Ryan’s initial one-year, $7.5 million deal he agreed to last August prior to his three-year extension in December.
Dave Gettleman would likely provide the veteran with a one-year deal worth, say, $3-4 million — after all, the Giants only carry a little over $3.8 million in cap space at the moment (per Spotrac).
So it could be perceived as a low-risk signing that may potentially carry a high reward if McCourty were to effectively and efficiently fulfill his role, which would probably be performing as a situational defensive back in coordinator Patrick Graham’s unit.
He most definitely wouldn’t take on a starting role — the Giants have already made investments in both Adoree’ Jackson and 2020 Pro Bowler James Bradberry and are seemingly high on 2020 fourth-round slot corner Darnay Holmes, who carries great potential heading into his second season.
McCourty additionally would bring a significant level of versatility, and if you know how Graham and Joe Judge evaluate a roster, you understand they adore that on-field quality.
While mainly performing on the outside with the Pats last year (401 total snaps in that area), McCourty also found time in the slot (112 snaps) and at free safety (46 snaps). The Pats fielded him on the defensive line and in more of a linebacker role as well.
McCourty, furthermore, would be providing depth, and you can never possess enough of that in an NFL defensive backfield.
Why a potential signing might not work
Anyone who’s concerned with this possible acquisition is potentially doing so for the same reason — McCourty’s ever-increasing age coinciding with the declining skill.
In his age-33 season last year, he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.4% of throws for a 9.3 yards-per-target rate, 14.4 yards-per-completion rate, and 131.4 passer rating when targeting him. Those were notably worse marks than the previous season when McCourty allowed a 48.2% completion rate, 4.8 yards per target, 9.9 yards per completion, and a 54.7 passer rating.
McCourty’s level of physicality has endured a dip as well — he racked up just 42 combined tackles in 16 games last year in comparison to 70 in 2018, his last 16-game season prior to 2020.
And speaking of 16-game seasons, McCourty has undergone an on-and-off relationship with that type of yearly feat. In the last six seasons, the 33-year-old has partaken in every regular-season game just twice — not ideal when one of the top abilities you could sport is availability.
And I know we previously mentioned the importance of depth, but given the Giants’ limited cap space, the need to retain space for in-season emergencies, and New York’s already-loaded defensive backfield, spending cash on further building the secondary may not be the most intriguing financial move, especially when that cash would be going into the pocket of an aging player.
Dave Gettleman, however, has had a knack for signing veterans in the back end of their careers (SEE: Golden Tate, Antoine Bethea, Jonathan Stewart, and Connor Barwin).
Should the Giants offer a contract?
There are a number of noteworthy points for either argument. And it’s understandable that depth is depth, and depth is most crucial in the defensive backfield.
But Gettleman cannot make this type of mistake again. It didn’t work out when the Giants signed any of the aforementioned veterans, so who’s to say it will work for McCourty? He’s on his way to retirement and the current skill (or lack thereof) doesn’t make up for that.
Spending a portion of the limited cap space on an aging defensive back wouldn’t be the most beneficial move, especially for an organization that can’t afford to make any errors ahead of a critical 2021 season.