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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 16 - 02:00 PM | Thu Apr 18 - 11:55 AM

2024 Free Agent Forecast: Safety

The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2024’s free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we’ll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today, we analyze the safeties.

Patriots defensive back Kyle Dugger
Patriots defensive back Kyle Dugger

Patriots Free Agents: Kyle Dugger, Jalen Mills.

Notable External Free Agents: Micah Hyde, Jordan Fuller, Kamren Curl, Chuck Clark, Xavier McKinney, Jeremy Chinn.

Position Analysis: Kyle Dugger is arguably the key free agent this offseason for the Patriots, as the 2020 second-round pick has shown good development in four seasons with the team. Meanwhile, Jalen Mills played an important depth role in 2023 after moving over to safety from cornerback, but has seen his defensive snaps decrease in each of three seasons in New England, bottoming out at 40 percent last year in a new role.

Patriots defensive back Jabrill Peppers
Patriots defensive back Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers' emergence as a high-impact starter ensures some important continuity for 2024, while Marte Mapu's development in his second season is something to keep an eye on. Adrian Phillips was released in February after seeing his defensive role minimized in 2023, playing just 12 percent of the defensive snaps after playing 82 percent and 62 percent of them in his first two years as a Patriot.

If the Patriots are going to hit the free agency market for a safety it should be to retain Dugger. The team has had a recent history of losing players they've poured time and resources into, and though Dugger still has work to do to round out his game, especially against the pass, the positives he brings outweigh the holes in his game that should continue to be developed.

However, an argument could be made that the team never adequately replaced free safety Devin McCourty and that tacking to a player with more range and ability against the pass could make sense to the overall integrity of the defense. Will the Pats keep playing a high amount of three-safety packages? Could Mapu even take over for Dugger? Both are fair questions as the Patriots weigh any potential offer to Dugger.

Washington free agent Kamren Curl is three years younger than Dugger and was equally balanced between playing in the box and on the back end. Similarly, Xavier McKinney and Jordan Fuller are both younger than Dugger and have played more free safety. All could make sense if the defense is looking to recalibrate how they're balanced at the safety position. Jeremy Chinn is more in Dugger's mold as a box safety/linebacker if the team chooses to continue hoarding those types of players.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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