Patrick Chung

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."


Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.



Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

Nate Ebner


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.


Chung's ability to limit Ertz key to Patriots Super Bowl chances

AP Photo

Chung's ability to limit Ertz key to Patriots Super Bowl chances

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Patrick Chung's tweet was a mere 50 characters long, but it spoke volumes. 

The Patriots safety had just helped his team beat the Jaguars in the AFC title game the day before. He made seven total tackles and was used heavily in the box, sometimes aligned as a linebacker, to lend a hand in stopping Jacksonville's bruising running game. Chung was also busy running with tight ends, and he had a pair of second-half pressures that were key in swinging momentum in favor of the Patriots. 

The following day, he felt the residual effects of his big day. 

Hope Rappoli is a masseuse who has worked with multiple Patriots, including Chung and fellow safety Devin McCourty. She tends to muscles, tendons and ligaments "through kneading, myofacial stretching, cross fiber friction and trigger point release," according to her website. 

After two weeks off since the Jaguars game, Chung should be fresh enough to give the Patriots one more all-out effort. Bill Belichick is among those who've become accustomed to seeing on Chung to lay his body on the line week after week. 

"Pat's really a tough kid," Belichick said. "There's really never any question about that. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Pat and his physical and mental toughness. Things he's been asked to do over the last few years, we've asked a lot of him, and he's always delivered for us.

"He plays a lot of plays. He plays a lot of plays on the kicking game, a lot of plays on defense, and they're hard plays too. He doesn't get many plays off. He's got a big responsibility on almost every play. We count on him pretty heavily, and he's just done a tremendous job for us."

Against the Eagles, Chung will have a critical role once again. When Philadelphia opts to run, he'll be counted on to help stop running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. When the Eagles deploy a run-pass option play, Chung -- as a hybrid player who can rush, cover and play the run -- could factor into the equation the Patriots use to try to confuse quarterback Nick Foles' reads. And when it's time for Philly to make a big throw, Chung will probably be attached to Foles' No. 1 option on money downs: Zach Ertz.

Chung has been New England's primary cover man for opposing tight ends, and in Ertz, the Eagles have one of the best pass-catchers in the league at that position.

Ertz is third among tight ends, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, when it comes to first-down receptions this season (46). He's also third among NFL tight ends, behind Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, when it comes to catches inside an opponents' 20-yard line (11). He's tied for fourth among tight ends with four catches inside an opponents' 10-yard line. He's second among tight ends when it comes to first downs on third-and-seven-or-more plays (6).

Bottom line: When the Eagles need a big catch, Ertz is perhaps their most reliable receiver.

That means that Chung will have a lot of responsibility on his hands at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. And Belichick wouldn't have it any other way.

"He's an outstanding player," Belichick said of Chung. "He's got a great football instinct, whether that's in the kicking game, or defensively. He knows how to play. There's a lot of things he does, sometimes they're not the way you drew them up, but he sorts them out, figures them out, and makes a lot of good decisions."