Since announcing his retirement, Devin McCourty has been letting his candor shine through in recent media interviews — something he did during his later years as a player but to a lesser degree.
In particular, the future Patriots Hall-of-Famer has made clear he’s not a fan of his old team’s decision to let Jakobi Meyers walk in free agency.
“I’m not going to lie, I would have liked to see Jakobi back over JuJu,” McCourty said on former Patriot Chris Long’s “Green Light” podcast. “Just my personal feeling. I just think Jakobi is a guy, he’s an undrafted free agent who pans out because of hard work.
The reasons are more about what Meyers brings to the table than what Smith-Schuster doesn’t, as McCourty lays out, and they’re about more than just the on-field action.
“To me, when you have guys like that — when you look at Jakobi, you can guess that his better years are still in front of him. I just think having that in the locker room for young guys, and I think especially in that (receiver) room over the years, you lose (Julian) Edelman, we haven’t replaced that room with a guy who is New England culture. You just don’t have it.”
“You’ve got Kendrick Bourne, you had (Nelson) Agholor, you’ve got DeVante Parker — all of those guys are from other teams,” McCourty continued. “So now you have JuJu in there, another guy from another team. I thought Jakobi would have been a great fit for younger guys that you bring in there to say, ‘All right, this is how I become a good football player. This guy wasn’t rated high, and look at him now. He’s the best receiver on our team.’”
From a football standpoint, the trade-off is understandable. Though Meyers has had more of a steady upward trajectory to this point, Smith-Schuster offers more explosive play ability and yards after the catch than Meyers, who is a pure possession receiver.
But McCourty’s point about Meyers’ leadership and intangibles makes sense, especially when you consider McCourty’s own retirement.
Meyers was an unsung leader in the receiver room and always accountable even at his lowest points, including after his ill-fated lateral that led to a loss against the Las Vegas Raiders. He also was Mac Jones’ most trusted receiver by far, meaning the young quarterback will have to adjust to a new pecking order in an all-important third season.
Though McCourty also told the podcast the team is “excited” about the coaching change from Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to Bill O’Brien running the offense, the players executing the schemes matter too. On one hand, you can say Smith-Schuster adds more punch to the offense. But the chemistry Jones had built with Meyers might be hard to replace quickly.
McCourty expressed some subtle doubts about Smith-Schuster’s ability to replace Meyers’ intangibles — “From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t guess that they’re going to get that over there” — potentially jabbing at the former Steeler’s penchant for TikTok and social media beefs.
But perhaps we’ll be in for a surprise. The Patriots had better hope so, anyway. Because if Smith-Schuster doesn’t deliver on his end, McCourty will be far from the only person criticizing the Patriots for passing on Meyers.