New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff,

There’s one notable jersey number change coming in Foxboro for the 2018 season. Malcolm Butler’s former No. 21 will now emblazon the back of safety Duron Harmon’s jersey, granting new Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty an opening to take No. 30.

Devin’s identical twin brother, acquired from the Browns in March as part of a draft pick swap, may not wear Butler’s old number. But there’s a chance he could act as a direct replacement on the field, right?

The answer to that, as it usually is with predicting what Bill Belichick and the Patriots do, is not that simple.

Speaking to reporters in person for the first time at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, the younger McCourty (by about 27 minutes) spoke like a true Belichickian Patriot. Just wants to do whatever the team needs.

“However all of that works its way out, it works its way out,” Jason said. “For me, there’s no designated role that I see myself filling. Whatever the coaching staff puts me in the position to do, I’m going to give it my all and see where that puts me at the end of the day.”

Jason McCourty with the Cleveland Browns, circa 2017. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Devin acknowledged that, similar to the departed Nate Solder and Dion Lewis, you usually can’t just replace a player that was key to the roster with another player. One-for-one trade-offs, especially at a starting corner spot, don’t necessarily work out perfectly.

“You just don’t pick a – no offense to Jason – but we just don’t bring a guy in here, whether it’s a veteran or rookie, and think they’re just going to take over a huge role that those play,” Devin said. “So, we can’t replace those guys with just one guy. But, I think the thing you learn in the NFL is each year your team is different, so we’ll have to find different ways to win games without the Malcolm’s, without the Dion’s, the Nate’s. So, that’s the challenge of every offseason of trying to come together as a team.”

It remains to be seen how Belichick and the Patriots adjust to life without Butler in 2018. The hope is that it turns out better than it did in the Super Bowl, but they have the reinforcements to improve. It’s still probably unwise to bet against the Patriots to figure things out, especially with Jason and second-round pick Duke Dawson in the fold.

Like the jersey shuffling, the odds are good that they will.

“[Duron Harmon] actually was on the verge of wanting to switch numbers, as well,” Jason said. “So, just in our Rutgers way, we were able to work it all out and everybody walks away happy.”

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at