The Cleveland Browns’ revamping of the secondary continues this offseason. The NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo reported on Thursday that the Browns will be releasing cornerback Jason McCourty just one year into the two-year contract he signed with the team last May. The Browns also confirmed the release.
Browns are releasing CB Jason McCourty, source says. They’re rebooting with their own guys obviously. He should have interest elsewhere.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 15, 2018
McCourty started 14 games last year for the Browns, leading the team in interceptions with three (the defense as a whole had just seven), including one for a touchdown. He also led in passes defensed, with 14, and had 65 combined tackles. He was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal with just $2 million in guaranteed cash; his release will save the team nearly $3 million.
McCourty’s release comes on the heels of the Brown adding Damarious Randall, Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie in the early days of free agency. But the new faces may not be the only reason the Browns chose to move on from the nine-year veteran and former sixth-round draft pick. McCourty was critical of comments made by head coach Hue Jackson following the team’s 0-16 finish to the 2017 season claiming that a lack of talent was to blame.
He said, following a season-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that, “The talent in this locker room is not the talent to go win a Super Bowl this year, but this locker room is far more talented than 0-16. I’m kind of tired of hearing so many people say, even within the organization, is we don’t have the guys or we need more guys. Let’s work with the guys we do have and find ways to win games,” via Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
McCourty added, “When you’re one of the guys on the team who’s playing your heart out and you are putting everything into it - obviously, we are not getting the result we want, which is very apparent but still you are giving everything you have - you don’t want to hear about what you don’t have.”
Whether McCourty’s seeming distaste to the Browns’ top brass was the impetus for his release or whether it was more a matter of the new free agents edging him out for a job is, and will likely remain, murky. But it is a curious move; McCourty was Cleveland’s top-performing defensive back a season ago and was working on an affordable contract that had one year remaining.
However, it is clear that the Browns are again trying to revamp the roster in an effort to put their 1-31 record over the last two years behind them. And McCourty is, apparently, not part of that plan.
Update: Nathan Zegura of the team’s official website added some clarity to McCourty’s release via Twitter:
Move to release @McCourtyTwins was out of respect for him to give him a great chance to land with another team in a more certain role. He was and is very highly thought of in this ORG by EVERYONE— Nathan Zegura (@NathanZegura) March 15, 2018
Update (2): The Browns wound up not releasing McCourty outright as was their original plan. Instead, they have traded him to the New England Patriots; Cabot reports the Browns are also sending their 2018 Round 7 draft pick to the Patriots and receiving New England’s sixth-round selection in return:
As Cabot notes, Jason will now be teammates with his twin brother Devin, who is a starting safety for the Patriots.