NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Last year the Safety position for the New England Patriots was a revolving door. Thursday the Patriots made their first move to improve the position for the 2012-2013 season by signing former San Diego Charger Steve Gregory.
Gregory received a 3 year deal worth $8.8 million and $3.35 million guaranteed.
Steve Gregory is an interesting player. He’s not the big name or flashy player that fans might have been looking for at the start of the free agent signing period, but he is a Patriots type player. Gregory has the ability to play FS, which he did a lot of last year, and also move down and cover the slot in nickel situations. This is a position that the Patriots really struggled to fill last year. They tried a bunch of different players in a similar role from Sergio Brown to Josh Barrett. Each one had trouble covering slot WRs, as well as tight ends.
Once Patrick Chung went down the lack of depth at the position was even more evident and it really cost the Patriots in big situations. When Chung was healthy they struggled to find a compliment to play with him.
With the NFL moving more and more to a passing league teams need more than just the conventional Strong Safety and Free Safety. They need to be able to put combinations of players on the field based on the offenses they are facing. As I have said many times since the season has ended, the Patriots need to sign more than just one safety this off season.
Gregory will likely be a replacement for Sergio Brown who just didn’t develop like Bill Belichick and the coaching staff had hoped for. Brown was decent on special teams, but struggled each time he was asked to cover. While Gregory has struggled at times in coverage, he will provide an athletic upgrade over the multitude of players they put out there last season. Gregory is also a very good special teams player and should be able to help on all coverage units.
The Patriots seem to be focusing their attentions heavily on the safety position, which likely means Devin McCourty will remain at CB next season. Aside from Gregory, the Patriots are still very interested in former Redskin’s S LaRon Landry who will be visiting Foxboro this weekend. Landry is more of a strong safety at this point than Gregory and likes to deliver vicious hits (something the Patriots need more of), but would form a solid trio between himself, Gregory and Chung.
With this year’s draft and free agent classes being so weak at safety and the Patriots need there being so vital they have to be aggressive and it appears that is what they are doing.
One thing is certain, no matter who they bring in to play the position next year, it will be an upgrade over what they put out there last season.