CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns entered the 2017 offseason knowing that depth in the secondary was much needed after their defensive backs struggled to stay healthy and remain productive during the 2016 season, one in which the team finished 1-15.
When veteran defensive back Jason McCourty became available, the Browns were quick to bring him in for a visit, and then, reach an agreement on a contract.
“They are getting a lot out of that guy, a veteran cornerback, that is physical, he has size, he can matchup with any receiver,” said Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt, McCourty’s former teammate with the Tennessee Titans.”
Entering his ninth NFL season out of Rutgers University, the 6-foot, 193-pound McCourty registered 505 total tackles, including 418 solo stops, 87 assists and one sack over eight years with the Titans, who selected the Nyack, New York native in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Additionally, McCourty intercepted 13 passes, which he returned for 99 yards, defended 73 others and forced seven fumbles.
McCourty, whose twin brother, Devin, is a Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, played in 108 games for the Titans.
After missing all but four games in 2015, McCourty returned to the field to make 14 starts in 2016. In those starts, McCourty totaled 69 tackles, 60 of which were solo stops. He defended 12 passes and intercepted two others for the Titans, who finished 9-7 and missed out on winning the AFC South Division championship and making it to the AFC Playoffs because of a tiebreaker with the Houston Texans.
“He could definitely make the switch,” Britt said of McCourty possibly moving from cornerback to safety. “He is athletic enough to make the switch if they are going to do that. He is a great guy and his athletic ability is second to none.”
By signing with the Browns, McCourty joined a defense that invested six of their 10 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft to rebuild, including the Nos. 1 and 25 picks in end Myles Garrett and safety Jabrill Peppers, respectively.
Last season, the Browns ranked near the bottom of the NFL in several statistical categories, most notably points, yards and rushing yards allowed.
On the field for the fourth-most plays in the NFL last season (1,067), the Browns allowed 392.4 yards and 22.8 first downs per game, and surrendered third-down conversions on 45.1 percent of their opponents’ attempts.
Also, the Browns’ 26 sacks tied for the second fewest in the NFL.
But before joining a team looking to rebuild its secondary, McCourty made sure to talk with an old friend about the atmosphere within the building.
“Actually, our wives talked to each other before he even came out here,” Britt said. “My wife called me and told me he was taking a visit the next day. I saw him in the lunchroom. We sat down with a bunch of guys and hit it off from right there. He has been by my side since I have been at Rutgers to tell you the truth, and it has been kind of cool to have a familiar face to go against each and every day.
“My pitch to him about Cleveland is everything is great about it. It is amazing. I have never been in a locker room like this.”