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Kyle Dugger Receives Transition Tag, Now What?

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New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger celebrates after scoring on an interception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Kyle Dugger was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent later this month. However, the New England Patriots have ensured a better opportunity to retain the safety. Dugger was designated with the transition tag by New England. It was the final day for NFL teams to tag players.

The Patriots selected Dugger in the second round (No. 37 overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. Dugger played college Lenoir-Rhyne. He has spent his four-year NFL career in New England.

In 2023, Dugger led the team in defensive snaps (1,155) and solo tackles. He played in 96% of the defensive plays during the season. He added seven passes defended, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and 1.5 sacks. With the recent release of Adrian Phillips, only Jabrill Peppers and Marte Mapu appear locked in at safety for the 2024 roster.

Encouragement From Management

New England Patriots executive Eliot Wolf and head coach Jerod Mayo both expressed a desire to retain Kyle Dugger when asked about it at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine. Wolf did not mince words when asked about New England’s premier UFAs.

“We want to keep Mike (Onwenu) and Kyle (Dugger),” Wolf responded.

Mayo addressed their pending free agents as well.

“With (Kyle) Dugger, last year going into the season, there were some questions, can he communicate, and he squashed all that this year. He did a fantastic job in his new role without Devin (McCourty) there.”

What is a Transition Tag?

The transition tag essentially turns an unrestricted free agent into a restricted free agent. The player receives a one-year contract offer from their team for the average of the top ten paid players at their position. For a safety in 2024, the transition tag number is $13,815,000. However, Dugger does not have to sign that deal.

Dugger is allowed to negotiate with other NFL teams when free agency opens. However, if he signs an offer sheet from another franchise the New England Patriots would have the “right of first refusal” and get to match within seven days. If they do not match the offer, Dugger’s departure would not factor into compensatory draft picks.

Jerod Mayo was asked about the possibility of tagging players last week.

“That’s always an option,” Mayo acknowledged. “But, at the same time with guys like that, you want those guys to be happy. You want them to be here for the long term, so that’s the plan.”

Transition tags are rarely used and are not popular among players. Despite being able to negotiate, their market can suffer with other teams knowing any offer is likely to be matched. Thus, it appears working out a longterm deal prior to free agency would still be in the Patriots best interests.

Whether Kyle Dugger will remain with the New England Patriots for 2024 and beyond remains to be seen. But that choice now belongs to the franchise, not the player.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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