Patriots positional review: Safeties

Patriots positional review: Safeties
February 20, 2014, 5:00 pm

Tom E. Curran continues his position-by-position analysis of the Patriots as we head into the offseason. Today: Safeties. Tomorrow: Specialists.

DEVIN McCOURTY
AGE: 26 (8/13/87)
STATS: 15 games, 69 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2014
2014 CAP HIT: $2.115M (920K base salary, $1.145M prorated bonus, $50K workout bonus)
 
After moving to safety midway through 2012, McCourty fully settled into the position in 2013 and was one of the AFC’s better safeties. He’s smart, has shown great range and instincts and communicates well. The consistency of his play and his leadership among the secondary players make him a prime candidate for an extension before the end of this year, although his relatively modest 2014 cap number doesn’t make it urgent for the Patriots to do so.
 
STEVE GREGORY
AGE: 31 (1/8/83)
STATS: 14 games, 79 tackles.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2014
2014 CAP HIT: $3,183,334 ($2.25M salary, $833,334 prorated bonus, $100K workout bonus)
 
With both Gregory and McCourty up after 2014, the Patriots will have decisions to make on both. McCourty is unlikely to go anywhere. But Gregory – despite his communication skills and intelligence – is just physically overmatched at times on the back end. It’s not a lack of willingness. It’s a lack of deep speed and ability to be a physical presence when he plays at the linebacker level.
 
TAVON WILSON
AGE: 23 (3/19/90)
STATS: 13 games, 3 tackles, 1 INT.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2015
2014 CAP HIT: $1,150,335 ($773,444 base salary, $376,891 prorated bonus)
 
Almost exclusively a special teams player in 2013, Wilson took just 18 defensive snaps. He’s still young enough to blossom into a hybrid safety/lb – that’s what he’s built like – but he’s got to really improve on the learning curve and reaction efficiency to get to that point. So far, not a promising return on the second-round pick invested.
 
DURON HARMON
AGE: 23 (1/24/91)
STATS: 15 games, 31 tackles, 2 INT.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $633,900 ($495K salary, $133,400 prorated bonus, $5,500 workout bonus)
 
Perceived to be a reach when the Patriots drafted him in the third round, Harmon – perhaps because of his background with fellow Rutgers players in the secondary – assimilated quickly and played with enough consistency to spark optimism about him as the on-roster replacement for Gregory.