Kyle Dugger

AFC East Notes: Bills, Patriots, Eichenberg

Buffalo-Kansas City has been one of the 2020s’ defining NFL rivalries. The AFC squads have played five times this decade, twice in the playoffs, with the Chiefs’ two postseason wins playing a role in the Bills‘ roster construction. The AFC powers’ plans intersected during the 2022 first round as well. When the Chiefs moved up from No. 29 to No. 21 in the ’22 first round, they took the player the Bills eyed. The Bills sought Trent McDuffie with their top pick last year, per’s Albert Breer, but the Chiefs were able to make a deal with the Patriots to move in front of Buffalo.

The fallout from this miss became costly for the Bills, whose subsequent trade-up — from No. 25 to No. 23 — produced Kaiir Elam, who has been unable to earn steady playing time. As Elam has vacillated between backup or emergency starter and healthy scratch, McDuffie has progressed in Kansas City. Pro Football Focus rates McDuffie eighth overall among corners; the Washington product has been a central part of the Chiefs’ defensive improvement this season.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Patriots opted not to sell at the trade deadline, keeping the door open for longer-term futures with some of their contract-year players. New England held onto Josh Uche, Michael Onwenu and Kyle Dugger despite interest coming in before the deadline. Dugger has become a player teams are monitoring ahead of free agency, with’s Jeremy Fowler noting some teams view the Division II alum as the 2024 UFA class’ second-best safety — behind the Buccaneers’ Antoine Winfield Jr. This year’s safety market producing only one contract north of $8MM per year (Jessie Bates‘ outlier $16MM-AAV accord) could impact Dugger, but it is clear the former second-round pick will be costly for the Pats to retain.
  • Benched in Week 9 and left in the States ahead of the Patriots’ Week 10 Germany trip, J.C. Jackson was initially believed to have arrived late at the team hotel the night before the Pats-Commanders game. But the recently reacquired corner did not show up at all that night,’s Mike Reiss notes. Jack Jones missed curfew as well, but Reiss adds the since-waived corner did surface later. Both players were benched for Week 9, and despite Jackson’s unavailability, the Patriots further limited Jones against the Colts. Jackson is expected to remain with the Pats, but the ballhawk has not escaped the rough patch that began last year in Los Angeles.
  • Trent Brown did not make the trip to Frankfurt for personal reasons, and Reiss adds the veteran tackle’s missed game will affect his recently reworked contract. Including $88K per game in roster bonuses, the Patriots set playing-time thresholds for additional Brown escalators as well. The starting LT would collect $1MM for playing 75% of the team’s offensive snaps this season. Hovering at 75% after Week 9, Brown has now missed two games. The low end of this incentive structure is 65%, which Reiss notes will pay out $750K. He would receive another $750K by hitting the 70% snap barrier.
  • Dolphins contract-year guard Robert Hunt will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury. As a result, Liam Eichenberg will complete a rare NFL feat. The 2021 second-round pick began the week practicing at left guard, his primary 2022 position, but the swingman moved to right guard midway through practice this week, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes. The Dolphins view Eichenberg as more comfortable there. Once Eichenberg replaces Hunt on Sunday, he will have started at all five O-line positions as a pro. While the converted tackle could not retain his LG job to start this season, having accomplished this O-line tour of sorts in his third season is certainly noteworthy. Lester Cotton will start at left guard for the Dolphins, who are uncertain to have LG first-stringer Isaiah Wynn back this season.

AFC Trade Rumors: Patriots, Broncos, Renfrow

The Patriots fielded lots of calls for trade offers during today’s trade deadline, but two of the bigger names on their roster reportedly received no interest. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, teams called New England to take the temperature on pass rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger, and tackle Michael Onwenu, while quarterback Mac Jones and veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t receive any nibbles.

Uche, Dugger, and Onwenu are all facing contract-years, so they all held a decent chance of being dealt. Uche was reportedly the most likely, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. After a couple quiet years to start his career, Uche burst onto the scene in 2022, combining with Matt Judon for half of the team’s 54 sacks last year. Mike Dugar of The Athletic reports that the Seahawks held serious interest in Uche “with talks going pretty deep,” but ultimately, landed Leonard Williams from New York instead. With Seattle filling their defensive line need with Williams, Uche will remain in New England.

As will, Jones and Elliott. It’s unclear how serious the Patriots were, if at all, about seeking trade partners for the two offensive contributors. The team will face a fifth-round option decision for Jones before next year, while Elliott will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting out West:

  • It was a similar scene up in Mile High, where the Broncos decided not to move any of their potential trade assets due to a lack of serious interest. While the team reportedly did receive offers on players like receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, they didn’t gauge the offers as good enough to move on, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. Mike Klis of 9NEWS relayed that the team is “confident in its group of players.” While it seemed the team may be willing to dive into a rebuild, beating a sick Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have convinced them otherwise.
  • Remaining in the West, the Raiders were unable to find a buyer for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, to little surprise. Las Vegas gave Renfrow a big-money extension after his Pro Bowl season and has diminished his role severely ever since. So far this year, Renfrow has been on the field for over half of the Raiders’ offensive snaps in only three games. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the remaining guaranteed money in Renfrow’s contract prevented any teams from fully following through on their interest in the veteran receiver. With Renfrow staying put and the many sources shooting down reports of wide receiver Davante Adams wanting out of Vegas, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders stood pat at the trade deadline.

Patriots “Sniffing Around” At Potential Trades

We heard earlier this week that the Patriots were “willing to listen to offers” leading up to the trade deadline. According to Albert Breer of, New England’s front office may be the side that is initiating trade talks.

[RELATED: Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans]

The Patriots are “sniffing around” to see what draft compensation they could get for some of their logical trade candidates. Breer points to offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, safety Kyle Dugger, and defensive end Josh Uche as players who could be on the trade block. All three players are impending free agents, and despite possessing a chunk of 2024 cap space, the organization may want to move on from players they may not re-sign.

Breer opines that Uche is the player who’s most likely to be traded since he’d “probably be the most difficult of the group to re-sign.” The former second-round pick has followed up his 11.5-sack 2022 campaign by collecting six tackles and two sacks in six games this year. While his numbers this season are underwhelming, his pass-rushing ability means the Patriots would still be able to bring back a worthwhile return in a trade. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler agrees that Uche is a name “worth watching,” noting that the pass-rusher has garnered trade interest around the NFL. Likewise, based on his conversations with multiple teams, Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal believes Uche has the best chance of any current Patriot to be dealt.

On the flip side, Breer thinks Onwenu is the least likely of the group to be traded. The Patriots will use the rest of the 2023 campaign to evaluate Mac Jones, and Breer can’t envision the organization hurting the QB’s chances by subtracting from the offense. Following that same logic, Breer also doesn’t see wide receiver Kendrick Bourne getting traded, and Mike Reiss of does not think New England will part with any top talent unless it receives at least a third-round pick in return. Of course, if another club were willing to take on an onerous contract (JuJu Smith-SchusterDeVante Parker) as part of a deal for a player like Uche, the Pats would certainly listen.

Breer adds one more name to the list of potential trade candidates: Jalen Mills. The defensive back has served in a variety of roles with the Patriots since joining the organization in 2021. Mills got through two years of his four-year, $24MM deal before getting cut back in March, but he quickly rejoined the Patriots on a new pact. While the Patriots have dealt with a number of injuries in their secondary, Mills has only seen time in 26 percent of New England’s defensive snaps this season.

Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans

Despite their upset win over the Bills in Week 7, the 2-5 Patriots are likely to find themselves in the sellers category ahead of the upcoming trade deadline. To no surprise, the team is open to at least considering offers on a number of players.

[RELATED: Patriots, Bill Belichick Agreed To Offseason Extension]

Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots are “willing to listen to offers” which could see them deal away members of their core, specifically those on expiring contracts. That means the likes of edge rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu in particular could be the subject of trade negotiations in the coming days.

A recent report indicated Uche and the Patriots have not held extension talks, leaving him on a path toward departing in free agency in March. New England does not have a history of valuing situational edge rushers such as the Michigan alum as highly as other teams. As such, it would not come as a surprise if a market developed for his services to close out the 2023 season, but also for years to come on a long-term deal given out by an acquiring team. Uche had a breakout season last year with 11.5 sacks, but he has managed just a pair so far this season.

As fellow 2020 draftees, Dugger and Onwenu are playing out the final year of their rookie contracts. The franchise tag could be in play for the former in particular, Kyed notes, and it may become necessary if an extension cannot be worked out. Dugger expressed an affinity for the Patriots in the summer when asked about his contract status, but no updates have emerged regarding an extension being on the horizon. The same is true for Onwenu, who has proven to be a versatile and consistent blocker over the course of his career (although his performance has taken a step back in 2023).

Kyed adds that the trio of Uche, Dugger and Onwenu would each likely garner draft compensation ranging from second- to fourth-round picks if they were to be included in deadline deals. Veteran wideout Kendrick Bourne – previously named as a low-cost trade target at his position – could also draw attention and yield a Day 3 pick in return. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required), New England is seen around the league as a team with desirable trade chips, so they will be a team to watch in the coming days.

The Patriots are currently slated to have the third-most 2024 cap space in the league at nearly $93MM. That flexibility could go a long way in informing their moves (or lack thereof) ahead of the October 31 deadline as they weigh the value of future assets against that of retaining key players in what appears to be another season destined to land outside the postseason.

Extension Candidate: Kyle Dugger

The Patriots haven’t signed a first- or second-round pick to a rookie contract extension since Dont’a Hightower, who was a member of the 2012 draft class. Things may change in 2023, as the Patriots have a 2020 second-round pick who is worthy of a new deal. Kyle Dugger is currently eligible for an extension, and the safety can make a strong case for a new contract in New England.

The defensive back was a surprise pick out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, with the Patriots selecting him 37th-overall in 2020. Following an inconsistent rookie campaign that saw him in and out of the starting lineup, Dugger took it to another level over the past two seasons. Between 2021 and 2022, the safety has compiled 120 tackles, seven interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns. The 26-year-old earned his best Pro Football Focus grade in 2022, finishing 11th among 88 qualifying safeties.

The Patriots secondary will be lacking some leadership in 2023 following the retirement of Devin McCourty, and Bill Belichick and co. will surely want to maintain some continuity in their safeties room. Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips provide some solid depth at the position, and the team has reportedly given cornerback Jalen Mills some reps at safety. The organization also used a third-round pick on Sacramento State defensive back Marte Mapu, perhaps some insurance in case the organization loses their starter next offseason.

However, none of those options offer as much upside as Dugger, and while the team doesn’t have a long track record of extending first- or second-round picks, the safety has easily outperformed most of the other players on that list. Of course, this is the Patriots, and we shouldn’t expect the front office to start negotiating against themselves.

Despite his impressive numbers over the past two seasons, Dugger hasn’t established himself among the top tier of safeties. A top-10 contract at the position would put him in line for an average annual value of $14MM. More likely, New England will be looking to get Dugger under contract for a discounted amount; considering his production and the current contracts at the position, a deal starting around $12MM per year could make some sense.

Fortunately for New England, Dugger’s contract status won’t be a distraction for the fourth-year player.

“That’s not on my mind,” Dugger said of his impending free agency (via Chad Graff of The Athletic). “That’s the business part. I’m on the field and trying to handle business on the field and let that be that. But I definitely enjoy playing with this organization.”

Dugger might not even be the only member of the Patriots 2020 draft class to earn an extension. Fellow second-round pick Josh Uche had a breakout season in 2022, finishing with 11.5 sacks and a top-20 edge rusher grade from PFF. The Patriots probably won’t overpay for one good season, and Uche is mostly a part-time player in their system. However, another 10-plus-sack season would put Uche in line for a massive payday next offseason. If the organization believes his 2022 season was for real, it may be in their best interest to extend the linebacker now.

Offensive lineman Michael Onwenu could be another interesting contender for an extension. The 2020 sixth-round pick earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors as a rookie, struggled during his second season, and then earned a top-four PFF mark among all guards in 2022. The lineman’s inconsistency makes him a risky extension candidate, but New England could look to hedge their bets and sign him to an affordable deal while they have the chance. As Evan Lazar of the team’s website points out, the organization does have a recent history of trying to retain interior linemen, including Shaq Mason‘s extension and Joe Thuney‘s franchise tag.

Part of the reason for the team’s lack of success in a post-Tom Brady era (besides the quarterback’s obvious defection) was the team’s lack of draft hits. The fact that the Patriots have three worthy extension candidates from their 2020 draft class shows that the organization is starting to rebound in their prospect evaluations.

Pats Re-Sign Veteran DB Devin McCourty

The Patriots are bringing back veteran defensive back Devin McCourty for another season, according to the twins’ joint-Twitter account earlier this evening. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the older twin will be returning on a one-year deal worth $9MM. 

McCourty has started every game he’s ever played for the Patriots. Over his 12-year career, McCourty has appeared in 188 regular season games and 24 playoff games, only missing 5 games throughout his career. While he’s never quite matched the production of his rookie year when he intercepted 7 passes and broke up 17, he has long been a staple in the New England secondary, never failing to secure an interception in a season.

The Patriots tend to play three safeties and two corners on defense a lot of the time. Relying on J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills to lock down outside receivers, McCourty, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger are able to roam around and cover based on matchups and formations. The trio of safeties produced 11 interceptions between them, with Dugger coming on strong in his second season. The Patriots would love to see Dugger seamlessly step in when the 34-year-old McCourty decides to hang up the cleats.

With Jackson heading to the open market, the Patriots’ cornerbacks cupboard is looking pretty bare. Behind Mills is third-year corner Joejuan Williams and reserve corner Justin Bethel. McCourty’s experience at corner could be useful, but should be thought of as a last resort, as most corners move to safety in their advanced age, not the other way around. More likely the Patriots will look to the Draft and free agency to fill that hole.

Regardless, the Patriots bring back a leader. A durable one. He may not be able to produce on the field like he did in the 2010’s, but his role as the quarterback of the secondary makes him a valuable addition to the team’s 2022 defense.

Patriots Notes: QBs, Dugger, Jackson

The Patriots did not guarantee Cam Newton the starting quarterback job after they signed him in late June, but assuming Newton is healthy, it would be shocking to see anyone else under center come Week 1. And the 2015 MVP was a “full go” when practices started earlier this month, so all signs are pointing towards Newton serving as New England’s signal-caller when the season opens in a few weeks.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic details how the “competition” has unfolded over the first few practices. Newton has taken the majority of first-team reps, and while he has not been perfect, his accuracy has been impressive. Jarrett Stidham, the second-year pro who was in line to replace Tom Brady before the Newton acquisition, has been dealing with a hip injury, and he has also struggled with interceptions. The team is not concerned about Stidham’s health, but the turnovers aren’t helping his cause.

Brian Hoyer, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down camp thus far, but considering his experience and familiarity with the Patriots’ offense, Howe says the 34-year-old remains an option to start during the early stages of the season.

Now for more notes out of Foxborough:

  • The Patriots’ top draft choice in 2020, safety Kyle Dugger, may struggle to see early playing time on defense because of how much the condensed offseason is impacting rookies’ abilities to learn the pro game. But as Mike Reiss of writes, the team is eyeing Dugger as its top return specialist. The Lenoir-Rhyne product returned 67 punts for 929 yards and six TDs during his collegiate career.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says Jermaine Eluemunor is in the mix to replace Marcus Cannon — who opted out of the 2020 season — at right tackle. Though Yodny Cajuste appeared to be the favorite for the job, Reiss writes in a separate post that Cajuste, a 2019 third-rounder, appears to be buried on the depth chart.
  • Reiss adds that J.C. Jackson‘s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has touched base with the Patriots about an extension for his client. As a former UDFA, Jackson is now extension-eligible despite having just two years of service time. He has become a key piece of New England’s secondary and has recorded eight interceptions over his first two professional seasons.
  • Lamar Miller‘s one-year deal with the Pats will feature a $1.05MM base salary with $200K guaranteed, as Field Yates of tweets. Miller can earn up to $1.5MM more in achievable incentives.

Patriots Sign Rookie Kyle Dugger, Wrap 2020 NFL Draft Class

The Patriots’ entire 2020 NFL Draft class is now in the fold. The Pats have agreed to terms with second-round safety Kyle Dugger, according to’s Field Yates (on Twitter). With that, the Pats have become the first team in the league to sign their entire lot of draft picks.

Although he was a second round choice, Dugger was the first player chosen by the Patriots at No. 37 overall. Evaluators around the league were high on the Division-II Lenoir-Rhyne product, even though most fans weren’t familiar with him.

Dugger definitely isn’t your average rookie – he’s already 24 and he comes to the Patriots with only seven games worth of footage from 2019, thanks to a hand injury. He was, however, a second-team All-American last year, and the Pats like his upside.

Here’s the full breakdown of the Patriots’ 2020 draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

2-37: Kyle Dugger, S (Lenoir-Rhyne): Signed
2-60: Josh Uche, LB (Michigan): Signed
3-87: Anfernee Jennings, OLB (Alabama): Signed
3-91: Devin Asiasi, TE (UCLA): Signed
3-101: Dalton Keene, TE (Virginia Tech): Signed
5-159: Justin Rohrwasser, K (Marshall): Signed
6-182: Michael Onwenu, G (Michigan)
6-195: Justin Herron, T (Wake Forest): Signed
6-204: Cassh Maluia, LB (Wyoming): Signed
7-230: Dustin Woodard, C (Memphis): Signed

Patriots Draft Kyle Dugger At No. 37

The Patriots went outside the box with their first pick of the 2020 draft, taking safety Kyle Dugger from tiny school Lenoir-Rhyne with the 37th overall pick.

Dugger was expected to go in the second-round so it wasn’t shocking, but he’s still a more under the radar prospect as a result of playing D2 ball. Dugger shined during Senior Bowl week, and began rocketing up draft boards as a result. He received all kinds of accolades during his college career, and was a second-team All-American in 2019 despite being limited to only seven games because of a hand injury.

At 24 he’s older than your typical draft prospect, and definitely comes with a lot of risk. Bill Belichick obviously thought it was a plunge worth taking, and it sounds like he’s got high upside. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller listed Keanu Neal and Mark Barron as pro comps in a recent write-up.