The New England Patriots and safety Patrick Chung — for the third year in a row — have agreed to extend his contract: as was reported earlier on Wednesday, the two sides decided to add two more years to his deal in return for a $3 million signing bonus. Chung is now signed with the Patriots through the 2023 season, even though the fact that he will already turn 33 in August and has struggled with injuries recently makes it difficult to project whether or not he remains in town through the duration of the pact.
Before getting ahead of ourselves and into speculation territory, however, let’s take a look at what the new two-year extension means from the Patriots’ perspective.
The Patriots generate short-term salary cap relief...
With around $26 million invested in players who are no longer with the team, the Patriots have been in a difficult financial situation throughout the entire offseason so far. While Chung’s extension does not generate a lot of flexibility for the cash-strapped team, it does help generate an additional $925,000 in cap space to bring the available total to $1.88 million (per Miguel Benzan). New England did that by lowering Chung’s base salary and adding the aforementioned signing bonus as an incentive.
According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Chung’s new deal includes a $1.1 million base salary in 2020 — down from his pre-extension $2.9 million — as well as $800,000 in per-game roster bonuses and a $100,000 workout bonus. The deal’s structure beyond 2020 remains untouched outside of the addition of the new signing bonus prorated over the duration of the contract and looks the same each year: Chung has base salaries of $1.9 million in 2021, 2022 and 2023, $400,000 in per-game roster bonuses and $200,000 in incentives, as well as $100,000 in the form of workout bonuses.
...to get in a position to sign their final draft pick
With the Patriots $1.88 million under the spending threshold, they now find themselves in a position to sign their lone remaining draft pick not yet taken care of: second-round selection Kyle Dugger still has to agree to his rookie deal, with New England’s financial constraints a possible reason for the hold-up — at least when compared to the team’s nine other draft selections. Due to the rookie wage scale introduced in 2011, Dugger’s cap hit for the 2020 season will be roughly $1.5 million.
With the Chung deal done, the Patriots are in a position to sign the Lenoir-Rhyne product. That said, they will need to create more wiggle room eventually in order to get themself in a position to take care of any potential in-season expenses. A potential extension or trade of franchise-tagged left guard Joe Thuney, who hits New England’s books with a salary cap hit of $14.78 million would be the easiest way to do that.
New England still values what Chung can bring to the table
As noted above, Chung will turn 33 in three months. However, it seems as if the Patriots still value his potential contributions both on and off the field. From the on-field perspective, he brings experience and a versatility to the table: the former second-round draft selection has appeared in a combined 163 regular season and playoff games for New England since getting drafted in 2009, and has proven himself as a safety/linebacker hybrid capable of making an impact as a downhill defender and in coverage.
Off the field, meanwhile, Chung is one of the Patriots’ most vocal players: only Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman have spent more years in the system, and he has grown from a former second-round bust to become a leader in the locker room — something that is especially important given the offseason departures of fellow veterans such as Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner.
Four safeties can now be seen as roster locks
Chung’s extension is a sign that he can be guaranteed a spot on New England’s 53-man roster in 2020 — therefore joining a group consisting of veteran Devin McCourty, free agency acquisition Adrian Phillips, and the aforementioned Kyle Dugger. With all four men locked into the team this year, the battle for the remaining spots will be an intriguing one: Terrence Brooks, entering his second year in the system, will compete against offseason signing Cody Davis.
Furthermore, second-year men Malik Gant and Adarius Pickett will also try to carve out roles on the roster. Needless to say that the training camp competition between the four men will be one of the most interesting to watch this summer.