Devin McCourty has proven himself to be one of the most valuable players in the Patriots defense since ever his rookie season in 2010. But the fact that he doesn't yet have a contract extending his time in New England beyond this year doesn't give him pause.
"No, you just play football," he said. "Contract year isn’t what everyone else talks about. For a player, it’s just another year in the league. For me, it’s my fifth year in the league. I still want to get better. I think like Ninko [Rob Ninkovich] was saying, as you get older and year-by-year, you just want to continue to get better using what you’ve learned mentally and get better physically. Luckily for me, I’m not as old as Ninko. He’s 30, so I still have time to improve physically and get bigger, faster and stronger."
As the passing game and defending the pass have become increasingly important to NFL schemes by the year, defensive backs have increased their value. Some of the game's best safeties in particular have seen huge deals come their way.
Jairus Byrd, perhaps the best free agent on the market this past offseason, signed with the Saints for what was reportedly a six-year deal worth $54 million and $28 million guaranteed. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas re-upped with Seattle this offseason, reportedly getting an extension that will pay him $40 million over four years with about $28 million guaranteed.
McCourty may not necessarily be in their class, but he is one of the best safeties in football and earned second-team All-Pro honors last season despite being left out of the Pro Bowl. Whether he signs an extension mid-season or hits the open market in 2015, he'll have a chance to earn himself plenty of cash with another good performance this year.
Lining up in the same secondary as new teammate Darrelle Revis will only help him in that regard.