Patriots

Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

Patriots stay busy, reportedly sign Patrick Chung to extension

The Patriots have been busy in the last 48 hours. They made a trade to bring in a second McCourty. They signed a defensive end, a running back and an offensive lineman. And now they're extending one of their own. 

According to NFL Media, the Patriots are signing safety Patrick Chung to a short-term contract extension. Chung was headed into the final year of his contract and was set to earn $2 million in base salary. It's the third extension Chung has signed with New England in a little more than three years. 

Chung, who turns 31 in August, is arguably Bill Belichick's most versatile defender. He is able to play a traditional strong safety role, covering tight ends and backs and playing in run support. He's also been used at the "star" spot to take on opposing slot receivers, and he'll occasionally rush the passer. He's also still a key contributor in the kicking game. 

"The guy is a really good football player," Belichick said of Chung earlier in January. "He’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best players on our team. He does a lot of things very well and has done them that way for a long time. We’re lucky we have him. He’s an outstanding player in all the things that he does. We put a lot on him, and he always comes through."

Chung's second go-round with the Patriots has breathed new life into his career. 

Drafted in the second round in 2009 - with a pick the Patriots picked up by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs - Chung was used in more of a traditional deep safety role. That gig didn't exactly maximize his skill set, and in 2013 he signed with the Eagles to play under his college coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly. 

The Eagles released Chung after one season, and the Patriots re-signed him with a different role in mind. A strong tackler who wasn't afraid to mix it up at the linebacker level, Chung started to be deployed more often in the box. He readily admitted, he welcomed the change to be a little closer to the action. 

In 2015, Chung signed an extension to tack on three years to what was initially a one-year contract. In 2016, he signed another one-year extension. 

"We took the guy in the second round," Belichick said last season. "But it just - for a combination of reasons, I'd say a big part of it [being] mistakes that I personally made - it didn’t work out the way that we hoped it would. But we got it right the second time. I think we've been able to utilize him. I wish we had been able to do that when we initially got him, but it didn’t work out that way. Like I said, I think we finally got it right."

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Areas of change: How can the Patriots create some cap space ahead of free agency?

Areas of change: How can the Patriots create some cap space ahead of free agency?

Change is coming for the Patriots this offseason. Every day this week, we'll react to one area of the team that either has already undergone a shift, is in the process of shifting, or will be shifting soon. Today we'll see what kinds of changes the Patriots could make to player contracts in order to free up some cap space ahead of the new league year. 

Change is coming for Patriots bookkeepers. Happens every offseason, and 2019 will be no different. The team will have to make a few changes to contracts ahead of free agency if they want to have the cap space necessary to be in the mix for players on their radar.

Say the Patriots would like to make a play for Trey Flowers to keep continuity in their front seven, and say they'd like to try to add both Golden Tate and John Brown to bolster their depleted receiver corps. How would they do it? Could they do it?

The cap hits for those players in 2019 could very well eat up every last bit of the about $18 million in cap space the Patriots have at the moment. Not ideal, especially since they'll likely want to re-sign some of their other free agents like Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen, have enough space to sign their rookie class, and leave some space left over for mid-season acquisitions.

So what can they do?

They could extend Tom Brady for another couple years, drop his base salary to the minimum of $1.03 million, and convert his remaining 2019 base salary into signing bonus prorated over the life of his new deal. The result? He gets a raise, and the Patriots get a few million in cap space. 

Not a bad way to start.

Then the Patriots can work their way down the roster, and there's more cap space to be had. For instance, Dwayne Allen was a key to the Patriots Super Bowl victory, allowing them to get two tight ends on the field to pick apart the Rams, but with a $7.3 million cap hit for 2019, he's an obvious candidate for a contract restructure or release.

The Patriots will have decisions to make on role players such as Adrian Clayborn and Elandon Roberts. If they're looking for more cap relief, they could free up several more million by moving on.

Retirements will impact the equation here, too. If those are coming, they could mean millions more in cap space.

The bottom line: There are a lot of moving parts salary-cap wise for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to consider, but if they want to give themselves some financial flexibility ahead of the new league year, they have a variety of options to pursue in order to achieve that goal.

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Steelers reportedly not open to trading Antonio Brown to Patriots

Steelers reportedly not open to trading Antonio Brown to Patriots

It's never a good idea to trade your best player to a rival team. The Pittsburgh Steelers apparently are operating as such.

The Steelers will listen to trade offers from 27 NFL clubs for wide receiver Antonio Brown, the MMQB's Albert Breer reported Thursday. The four teams they won't do business with: their three other AFC North competitors ... and the New England Patriots.

Pittsburgh's stance should surprise no one, but it's a reminder the team still views New England as its biggest threat in the AFC. While the Steelers upset the Patriots in 2018, the Pats won the teams' previous five meetings and have had a stranglehold on the conference for the last several years.

The downside of that success: Patriots fans can stop dreaming about Tom Brady throwing touchdown passes to the best receiver in the NFL.

New England spending big on Brown seemed like a long shot anyway, but the 30-year-old apparently is getting serious about his trade request: He plans to meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney II to iron things out, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will meet with team owner Art Rooney II to discuss his trade request, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

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