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State of 2016 Patriots Roster: Safeties are Set for the Next Five Years

It wouldn't be a New England Patriots draft without the selection of an unheralded safety in the 2nd round. Rookie Jordan Richards was expected to compete with veteran Patrick Chung for the strong safety role, but was unable to surpass the veteran.

That wasn't a bad thing. Chung elevated his play and was the best safety on the team.

The Patriots have their safety position locked up for the next five seasons as strong safeties Chung and Richards are joined by free safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon. Chung, McCourty, and Harmon all saw extensive time on the field together as the Patriots played plenty of nickel defense and they were exceptional. All three are starting caliber players.

Richards wasn't able to play too much defense thanks to the emergence of Chung, but he joined Nate Ebner as some of the core special teams players on the roster. Rookie Brandon King emerged as one of the most vital special teams player along with Ebner, receiver Matthew Slater, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, and running back Brandon Bolden.

Former 2nd round head scratcher Tavon Wilson wasn't a major part of the team's game plan, but even he played a considerable amount of cornerback against the Buffalo Bills in week 11.

Player 9/1/16 Age Exp FA FA Type 2016 Cap APY
Devin McCourty 29.1 6 2020 UFA $7,937,500.00 $9,500,000.00
Patrick Chung 29.0 7 2018 UFA $2,387,500.00 $2,733,333.00
Nate Ebner 27.7 4 2016 UFA $549,150.00
Tavon Wilson 26.5 4 2016 UFA $1,052,096.00
Duron Harmon 25.6 3 2017 UFA $814,400.00 $677,775.00
Jordan Richards 23.6 1 2019 UFA $843,534.00 $927,887.00
Brandon King 23.2 1 2016 ERFA $435,000.00

The Patriots are fortunate enough that most of their safeties are locked up moving forward. McCourty and Chung will be around for at least the next two seasons, while Richards will continue to develop behind Chung. Harmon, for all his skill, is probably going to outprice the Patriots after the 2016 season as he could fetch starting money for a different team.

New England will have to sign Ebner back as one of the core special teams players, along with exclusive rights free agent King. Wilson will probably be the odd-man out, unless Ebner signs with a different team for some reason.

The team will really need the safeties to step up in 2016 because they weren't able to force as many turnovers as the defense would like over the course of the season. Harmon led the position with 3 interceptions, while McCourty only collected one. Chung and Richards had one forced fumble apiece. This unit needs to generate more production for the defense to take the step to the next level.

While it's unlikely that the team will want to sign a veteran free agent at the position, don't be shocked if the Patriots select another free safety in the draft due to the importance of the position. With Harmon's departure imminent, the team would do well to groom another free safety due to all the 3-safety formations of the Patriots.