Name: Pat Chung
2012 Season: In 2012, for the third straight season, Patriots safety Patrick Chung was derailed by injuries. Chung ultimately appeared in 12 games for the Patriots, starting eight of them. He began the year as the team’s starter at strong safety opposite Steve Gregory, starting the first six games of the season before going down with injury. His play in those six games wasn’t exactly on par with what the Patriots had seen from him in years past when healthy. Following his injury, and the tranisition of Devin McCourty from cornerback to safety, Chung became a reserve defensive back for the Patriots. In two playoff games, Chung managed to see the field for only three of the team’s 153 total snaps on defense. While Chung wasn’t awful in coverage this year (according to ProFootballFocus.com, allowed 14 completions in 25 attempts thrown his way while not allowing a gain greater than 29 yards), he hasn’t proven to be a reliable cover safety. Furthermore, the area where he has typically stood out – his run defense – wasn’t quite there in 2012, as Chung finished with just 44 total tackles in 542 snaps played.
Why the Patriots Should Re-Sign Him: While Chung isn’t an elite safety, he has shown flashes of being an above average starting safety in the past. When healthy, there are few safeties in the league capable of making the impact that Chung can inside the box. He’s an excellent blitzer, can be average in coverage, and is one of the team’s best special teams players. The Patriots still have a need at safety, and Chung could compete for playing time if the market doesn’t give him the big deal that he’s looking for.
Why the Patriots Should Let Him Walk: Chung, when healthy, is a capable starter in this league. However, his injury history has stunted his development as a player through four years of his NFL career. If he was on a veteran minimum contract, Chung would certainly make the team’s final roster. However, because he can’t be counted on week in and week out, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots giving him a big contract giving all of the personnel issues the team has had at the position the past two seasons. And while Chung isn’t terrible in coverage, it’s also possible that the Patriots will want an upgrade in that area at the safety position.
Prediction: The Patriots will play the wait and see approach with Chung. If he doesn’t get interest on the open market, perhaps there could be a window for his return. However, as things stand now, I expect he’ll sign elsewhere, and perhaps get a decent pay day.