Patriots Take Care of In-house Players First

March 14, 2019 GMT

By Kevin Duffy

Boston Herald

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots kicked off the new league year the only way they know how.

By signing a special teamer.

Brandon Bolden became the first player plucked from unrestricted free agency by the Patriots, a source confirmed. Bolden, who spent the 2018 season with the Dolphins, is a familiar face. He began his career in New England as an undrafted free agent in 2012, developing into a core special teams contributor and a respected voice within the locker room.

Aside from the Bolden addition, the Pats took care of two in-house free agents on Wednesday. Cornerback Jason McCourty returns on a two-year contract, according to a source. And linebacker John Simon, an early-season addition a year ago, will also re-sign on a two-year deal, according to multiple reports.

Additionally, the Patriots picked up the 2019 option in Matthew Slater’s contract, which was the expected move.


The most significant signing Wednesday for Bill Belichick and Co. was the McCourty agreement. The secondary was arguably the team’s strongest position group this past season, and the unit remains fully intact now that McCourty has re-upped.

McCourty joins All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and second-year pro J.C. Jackson atop the depth chart. Slot cornerback Jonathan Jones was tendered at the second-round level as a restricted free agent. He’ll almost certainly be back, barring another team parting with a second-round pick to sign him. Young cornerbacks Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen return. The safeties trio of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon is back for a sixth consecutive season together, as well.

The terms of Jason McCourty’s new deal have not yet been disclosed.

Originally acquired in a trade with the Browns last offseason, McCourty looked to be on the roster bubble in training camp, but solidified a spot on the team and quickly emerged as a starting cornerback opposite Gilmore. When Jackson came on strong in the second half of the year, the Patriots asked McCourty to handle more slot coverage.

“He’s moved around probably more than any other player in the secondary over the 10 games we’ve played,” Belichick said in November. “But even at corner, he’s played inside, he’s played outside; unlike really any other player we have. He’s a smart guy, he’s a versatile player. He’s shown a lot of versatility considering he missed in the spring. From training camp on, he’s done a lot of good things for us.”

McCourty made the biggest play of Super Bowl LIII, sprinting from his zone on the outside third of the field to break up a surefire touchdown pass to a wide-open Brandin Cooks.

The Patriots defense, which dominated in Super Bowl LIII, will carry over rare continuity in the secondary and at linebacker next season.

The most pressing questions at this juncture of free agency are on the other side of the ball.


The Pats haven’t yet addressed wide receiver. Currently, Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, and Damoun Patterson are the only wideouts under contract. Josh Gordon was given an original-round tender as a restricted free agent, but he remains indefinitely suspended.

The free-agent pool is thinning out, as possible targets like John Brown, Tyrell Williams, Cole Beasley, Jamison Crowder, and Adam Humphries have signed elsewhere.

But several talented receivers are lingering on the market. Golden Tate, who has topped 1,000 yards in three of the past five seasons, is unquestionably the best player available. After him, veterans Randall Cobb, Michael Crabtree, and Dontrelle Inman could fit. A pair of former Patriots receivers -- Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan -- are available, as well.

The Pats have been in contact with Dorsett throughout the free agent process, according to a source.

Although the Patriots are working with limited cap space, receiver remains a top priority in the second wave of free agency. The Pats are simply waiting to find the right value.