New England Patriots

Patriots using rare transition tag on safety Kyle Dugger

The Patriots are taking an interesting course of action with their veteran safety.

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Kyle Dugger is still a member of the New England Patriots. For now.

The Patriots are placing the transition tag on the 27-year-old safety ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for NFL teams to use franchise or transition tags on players, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports. UPDATE (4:25 p.m. ET): The Patriots officially announced they're using the transition tag on Dugger.

The transition tag value for safeties in 2024 is $13.8 million, as opposed to $17.1 million for the franchise tag. The transition tag is similar to restricted free agency in that teams can offer Dugger a contract in free agency, but the Patriots have the right of first refusal to match that offer.

So, Dugger essentially will be a free agent beginning March 13, although New England will have a bit more leverage if it wants to match another team's offer. If Dugger does sign elsewhere, the Patriots wouldn't receive any draft pick compensation in return.

The transition tag is extremely rare compared to the franchise tag: New England will be the first team to deploy it since 2020, when the Arizona Cardinals used the transition tag on running back Kenyan Drake. The Patriots have used the transition tag just one other time in franchise history: on cornerback Maurice Hurst in 1994.

According to Sportskeeda's Tony Pauline, New England is believed to have offered Dugger a multi-year deal worth $13 million annually, while Pro Football Focus projects Dugger's next contract at four years, $53 million ($13.25 million per year) with $29 million guaranteed.

Head coach Jerod Mayo said Tuesday the Patriots are hoping to sign Dugger to a long-term contract.

"Kyle is a talented player with a strong work ethic who has improved every year and been extremely productive since joining our team in 2020," Mayo said. "We value players with high character and chose to use the transition designation to give both sides more time to try to reach a long-term agreement, which is our goal with Kyle."

The Patriots using the transition tag on Dugger means they can't use the franchise tag on offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, who now will become an unrestricted free agent next week.

Onwenu, who recently fired his agent and currently is representing himself, still could return to the Patriots on a new contract but likely will receive competitive offers from several teams.

The NFL's legal tampering period for free agency begins next Monday, March 11, while free agency begins Wednesday, March 13.

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