The New England Patriots and Chung came to an agreement on a contract Thursday, the details of which are yet to be released. Given Chung's struggles latching on with a team at the beginning of free agency and his poor 2013 campaign, anything longer than a year at minimal guarantees would be a surprise.
Chung, 26, was a second-round pick (No. 34 overall) by the Patriots in 2009. He spent his first four professional seasons with the franchise, working as a reserve during his rookie campaign before becoming a full-time starter. Oscillating between the free and strong safety positions, Chung started 30 games before hitting the free-agent market last spring.
He then signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, reuniting him with college coach Chip Kelly.
The move soon backfired for both parties.
Chung, inconsistent throughout his time in New England, suffered through arguably his worst professional season in Philly. He played in 12 games (10 starts), recording 59 combined tackles and failing to intercept a pass for the first time in his career. The Eagles ranked 25th in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA metric and allowed an NFL-high 4,636 yards through the air.
While not all of those struggles land at Chung's feet, he was far from a help. At multiple points in the season, Chung was benched for Kurt Coleman, a 25-year-old safety who himself is having trouble finding work at the moment. The back line of Philadelphia's secondary was a consistent source of frustration, even in a division-winning season.
Among safeties who received at least 50 percent of their team's snaps, Chung ranked 20th in coverage snaps per reception, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was no better against the run, either, with his run-stop percentage ranking below league average.
A little less than a month later, Chung is back in New England. As for the role he'll have, that remains very much to be seen. Devin McCourty is entrenched at the free safety spot, and the Patriots hope to get something in return from their investment in Adrian Wilson last offseason. Wilson missed all of 2013 with an Achilles injury.
As pointed out by Tom E. Curran of CSN New England, Chung might not even be a guarantee to make the roster:
On Chung, his re-signing is not an anointing. Signing him as depth and competition. If he plays as he did in '11, solid. If not...— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) April 3, 2014
New England's offseason has been defined in large part by additions to the secondary. The team signed All-Pro Darrelle Revis and former Pro Bowler Brandon Browner to fill its top two cornerback spots, both contracts coming on mostly team-friendly terms.
Revis should be an instant improvement over the departed Aqib Talib, who signed with the rival Broncos on a long-term deal. On paper, the Patriots have their best secondary since their Super Bowl years in the early 2000s.
“I can’t wait until we get back and start working together, and what looks good on paper, trying to get it playing well on the field,” McCourty told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work going into this season, no matter who’s on your team, it’s always tough to play well.”
Where Chung fits in that hierarchy is to be determined. He could either slot back in the starting lineup with a couple injuries or ineffectiveness from the 34-year-old Wilson. Or the reunion could be over by the end of camp.
The answer to that question will be up to Chung, and whether he's more the pre-Philly version of himself or what fans saw in 2013.
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