Patrick Chung

Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon To Return

The Patriots are getting three of their key players back for 2021. After opting out of the 2020 season, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon all plan to retake the field in 2021, as Ian Rapoport of tweets

Hightower, 31 in March, was slated to make $8MM in base salary last year in what would have been his walk year. Instead, his contract tolled, tying him to the Pats through 2021. His deal isn’t necessarily cheap, but Hightower is one of the better on-ball linebackers in the NFL. Even with the numbers crunch, the Pats are expected to keep him.

And, besides, releasing Hightower would save only $9.95MM, and it wouldn’t be easy to replace his production. The same goes for Chung. Cutting him would save just $1MM on the books and he could still have a role on defense alongside the likes of Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips.

Cannon, meanwhile, isn’t guaranteed to remain on the roster between now and September. The Patriots could pocket $7MM by cutting him and sticking with Michael Onwenu at right tackle. Cannon has impressed in the past, but he showed signs of decline in 2018 and 2019. Alternatively, the Patriots could keep Cannon as their RT and slot Onwenu at left guard, provided that Cannon is willing to take a pay cut.

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Patriots Notes: Hightower, Chung, Cannon

The Patriots had eight players opt out of the 2020 campaign, the most in the NFL. The organization will naturally welcome back a handful of these players, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes that others may have already played their final game in a Patriots uniform.

For keepers, Dont’a Hightower seems like a guarantee to come back. Besides the two-time Pro Bowler’s on-field production, the Patriots would save only $9.95MM by releasing the 30-year-old; the organization wouldn’t be able to sign a player of Hightower’s caliber with that kind of money. It’s a similar sentiment for safety Patrick Chung. The team would only save $1MM by cutting the veteran, and Chung could still have a role on defense alongside the likes of Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips.

As for lesser names, Howe opines that running back/special teams ace Brandon Bolden will likely be back in 2021. The team would save $1.5MM by cutting the 31-year-old, but the organization clearly values his special teams ability. Elsewhere, fullback Danny Vitale ($1.2MM savings) will compete with Jakob Johnson for the starting gig, while tight end Matt LaCosse ($1.3MM) will compete for the third tight end spot. Both of those players’ roster spots are dependent on the camp competition.

One name that could be on his way out of New England is Marcus Cannon. The team could save $7MM by cutting the veteran, who already showed signs of decline in 2018 and 2019. The organization also appears to have their long-term answer at right tackle in Michael Onwenu. On the flip side, Onwenu could also be an option at left guard, which could carve a path to a roster spot for Cannon. Either way, Howe believes the Patriots will ask Cannon to take a pay cut.

Two other names that are probably long shots to stick around: wideout Marqise Lee ($687K savings) and offensive lineman Najee Toran ($780K). Howe says Lee could stick around as a reclamation project, but the reporter is confident Toran probably won’t make the team.

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AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker

Per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, players with COVID-19 health concerns can opt out of the 2020 season. Initially, the deadline was believed to be Tuesday, August 4. Talks between the league and the union have pushed it to August 6.

Chiefs guard and medical school graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to officially opt out. Scores of players followed.

Here’s the rundown, so far:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • T Brad Seaton

Tennessee Titans

  • OL Anthony McKinney

Washington Football Team

Free agents

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Patriots’ Patrick Chung Opts Out

Patriots safety Patrick Chung will opt out of the 2020 season, according to’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter). That makes Chung the sixth Patriots player to opt out, a list that also includes middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower and right tackle Marcus Cannon.

[RELATED: Patriots’ Hightower, Cannon Opt Out]

The Patriots selected Chung in the second round of the 2009 draft, and he has spent all but one year of his career with New England. In that time, he’s started in 112 regular season games and collected three Super Bowl rings. Unlike Hightower, he’s never been selected for a Pro Bowl, but he’s an important member of the Patriots’ D nonetheless.

In May, the Patriots re-upped Chung on an extension that would allow him to earn up to $12.8MM over the next four seasons. Now, he’s effectively under club control for five years. Chung’s contract will toll for 2020 and resume in 2021.

Last year, Chung appeared in 13 games and recorded 51 tackles, three passes defended, and one tackle for loss.

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Patriots, S Patrick Chung Agree To Extension

The Patriots and safety Patrick Chung have agreed to an extension, as ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter). Chung had been signed through the 2021 season, and the extension will keep him under club control through 2023.

As part of the new deal, the 32-year-old will land a $3MM signing bonus and can earn up to $12.8MM over the next four seasons. As Mike Reiss of notes, however, New England’s primary motivation was to obtain some cap relief. The Pats squeezed out just $925K of cap room, but they were working with just $600K before. And it should be enough to get their top draft pick from this year’s class, Kyle Dugger, under contract.

The Patriots selected Chung in the second round of the 2009 draft, and he has spent all but one year of his career with New England, starting 112 of a possible 141 regular season games and collecting three Super Bowl rings. Though he has never made the Pro Bowl, he and fellow safety Devin McCourty have brought stability and cohesiveness to the back end of New England’s defense, and head coach Bill Belichick has often expressed his appreciation for Chung’s play. And Chung has said Belichick is the only coach he will ever play for.

Today’s move marks the fifth straight year in which the Pats have given Chung a pay raise, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe observes (Twitter link). But while the Patriots’ defense as a whole was rock solid in 2019, the advanced metrics indicated that Chung’s personal performance declined from his 2018 levels, and the Oregon product may cede some snaps to Dugger in 2020. As such, it’s far from certain that Chung makes it to 2021 with New England, let alone 2023, but after contemplating retirement — as Jeremy Fowler of tweets — Chung will definitely be back in Foxborough this season.

In the piece linked above, Reiss passes along details of the extension. In addition to his signing bonus, Chung will earn a $1.1MM base salary in 2020 and will be able to earn up to $800K in per-game roster bonuses and a $100K workout bonus. In the subsequent three seasons, he stands to take home a base salary of $1.9MM with $400K in per-game roster bonuses, $200K in incentives, and a $100K annual workout bonus.

Chung was indicted for felony drug possession in August, but those charges were later dropped. He could still face discipline from the league, but there have been no reports on that front as of today’s date.

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Charges Dropped Against Patriots’ Patrick Chung

Patriots safety Patrick Chung has reached agreement with prosecutors to drop charges stemming from his 2019 arrest. The case will not go to trial, provided that Chung stays out of trouble over the next two years, participates in regular drug testing, and performs 40 hours of community service. 

In June, New Hampshire cops were called to Chung’s home in late June on “on a call for service.” While at his residence, police obtained evidence leading to a felony drug charge for cocaine possession. Chung submitted a plea of not guilty and, months later, appears set to put the incident behind him.

The Belknap County Attorney’s office cited Chung’s cooperation and lack of a prior record for their decision to settle. They also noted that police only found a small amount of cocaine at his house. Of course, Chung could still face league discipline in the form of a fine and/or suspension.

Last year, Chung appeared in 13 games and recorded 51 tackles, three passes defended, and one tackle for loss. In the Patriots’ Wild Card game against the Titans, Chung injured his ankle in the first quarter and was unable to return. The Pats went on to lose 20-13, eliminating them from the playoffs.

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Patriots’ Patrick Chung Pleads Not Guilty

The lawyer for Patrick Chung entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf, according to The Associated Press. Chung was indicted for felony cocaine possession on August 8 and details on the case remain sparse. 

Here’s what we do know – New Hampshire cops were called to Chung’s home in late June on “on a call for service.” While at his residence, police obtained evidence leading to the felony drug charge.

Chung, 32, is scheduled to appear in court on November 8. No NFL discipline will come for a while – if at all – but head coach Bill Belichick has remained characteristically quiet about the safety’s status.

In 2018, the longtime Patriots safety played in 15 games and started 14, registering one interception and 84 tackles. Still operating at a high level, he rated as the No. 30 safety according to Pro Football Focus, with an above-average grade of 72.7.

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Patriots’ Patrick Chung Indicted For Felony Cocaine Possession

Patriots safety Patrick Chung was indicted for felony cocaine possession on August 8, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). It’s a shocking development for the Patriots’ long-time defender, who just inked a contract extension with the club this offseason.

“We are aware of the reports regarding Patrick Chung. We will not be commenting while his judicial proceedings take place,” the Patriots said in a statement (Twitter feed).

Under the terms of his new deal, Chung is under contract through the 2021 season. The 31-year-old was set to keep a level of stability on a Patriots defense that has undergone several changes since they won the Super Bowl in February. Gone are several coaches, including defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who took the head coaching gig with the Dolphins shortly after the victory over the Rams.

Chung suffered a broken forearm in the Super Bowl and underwent offseason surgery to repair it. He has not played thus far in the preseason. Now, he could be subject to a suspension in 2019, though the league might not act swiftly enough to keep him off of the field for Week 1, assuming he is healthy enough to take the field.

Chung is scheduled to be arraigned on a charge of cocaine possession on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. According to Volin (Twitter link), if Chung’s case goes to trial, the target date for jury selection is next March.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post

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Contract Details: Gostkowski, Chung, Jets

A look at the details on recent deals from around the NFL:

  • Stephen Gostkowski, K (Patriots): Two years, $8.5MM (original story). $4.25MM each year, with cap numbers of $3.05MM (2019) and $5.45MM (2020). Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Patriots): One year. Worth $895K, only guarantee via $50K signing bonus. Veteran minimum salary of $805K with $40K in per-game roster bonuses. Cap number of $707K. Twitter link via Volin.
  • Patrick Chung, S (Patriots): One-year extension. New “three-year” contract worth $12.9MM, with $6MM in new money. $4MM signing bonus. New 2019 cap number increases to $4.48MM. Twitter link via Albert Breer of TheMMQB and ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
  • Ty Montgomery, WR/RB (Jets): One year. Minimum deal with $90K signing bonus/roster bonus. Twitter link via Manish Mehta of NYDN.