Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Over the past few years, the Patriots have made it a habit to lock up their biggest free agents before they hit the open market (save for Wes Welker). The Patriots gave linebacker Jerod Mayo an extension in the middle of the 2011 season with a year-and-a-half left on his contract.
Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were both given big extensions before their rookie contracts expired. Of course, the latter of those two didn't work out so well for the Patriots, but they can't let that misstep guide their decision-making in the future.
Bill Belichick has always held Devin McCourty in high regard, and it wouldn't come as a shock for the Patriots to get a deal done for their starting safety before it becomes a problem. Belichick has spoken very highly of McCourty this offseason:
He’s one of our best-prepared players, both physically and mentally. He has a very good understanding of the overall defense and has gotten more experience at the safety position. He's also worked some at corner. He’s a great team player. He's been a captain since his second year in the league, so wherever we need him, I know he’s prepared to play and do the best he can for the team.
That's one of the things we all love about Devin: He's a great team player. He's a good player, does a lot of different things—in the kicking game, defense, safety, corner, nickel, whatever it happens to be. He's very dependable, he's very consistent, and he works hard, puts the team first. There’s not much to not like about him; it's pretty much all good.
McCourty has done everything the Patriots have asked him to do. He was drafted in the first round as a cornerback out of Rutgers, and while his play was up-and-down at that position, he was playing very well at cornerback before being moved to safety full-time in the second half of the 2012 season.
He has remained at safety in practice and in the preseason and looks like a long-term building block for the secondary.