The 2020 salary cap constraints have left the market quiet for many veteran NFL players who would normally sign in the second or third wave of free agency. As we head into April and teams' attention focuses squarely on the draft, those veteran free agents might have to wait even longer to find homes.
While stars are still getting paid, the middle class of the NFL is getting squeezed like never before.
Cornerback Jason McCourty is one of those veterans who has experienced a different market from the last time he was a free agent in 2019, when he signed an extension in New England on the first day of the new league year. Two years older, the 33-year-old is now forced to wait longer.
The McCourty twins joined NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Wednesday, and Jason discussed the different type of market and his goals in free agency.
"This year in free agency has been different obviously with the cap and everything going on as a result of 2020," Jason McCourty said. "I just want to be somewhere where I'm wanted and an opportunity to compete and help the guys around me. As an older player, I really look forward to and love being able to mentor younger guys and be able to help them grow as well as going in there competing and trying to win games. So wherever that may be, I'm going to be excited."
McCourty started 11 of 16 games in 2020 in New England, generating three passes defended and 42 tackles. His coverage fell off last season after years of consistency, but the long-time pro can still add a veteran presence to any secondary, especially given his willingness to be a mentor to a younger group. It didn't sound like retirement had crossed his mind.
"This will be year 13, so each year, you're closer to the end," he said. "This could be it. So just excited to get somewhere and play football."
At this stage, it wouldn't be a surprise to see veterans like McCourty wait until after the draft to find a landing spot given clubs' preference for filling out their rosters with cheaper rookies -- this season even more than most.
One team that hasn't been as stingy this season is McCourty's former club in New England. The Patriots have spent lavishly in free agency, a rarity for Bill Belichick's team. Devin McCourty, who has played his entire 11-year career in New England, the past three alongside his brother, is excited to see all the new additions.
"In my 11 years here, we haven't had an offseason like this," Devin noted. "So, obviously excited. I think fans and people that watch the sport always want their teams to spend big in free agency. I'm all about trying to get a better team and going out and competing and trying to get back to the playoffs."