Patrick Chung announced his retirement on Thursday, ending a 12-year NFL career of which 11 seasons were spent with the Patriots. In those 11 seasons, Chung established himself as one of the best strong safeties in the NFL and won three championships. Bill Belichick even once called him “one of the best players in the league” and his teammates loved and respected him.
Chung was the 34th overall selection in the 2009 draft, a pick the Patriots acquired when they traded Matt Cassel to Kansas City. After an up and down first four seasons with the Patriots, Chung left New England to join his college coach Chip Kelly with the Eagles. Things did not mesh well in Philadelphia and by 2014 Chung was back with the Patriots. From that point on, Chung became an elite strong safety tasked with covering tight ends, being in the box against the run and playing in space. He excelled in each of those facets.
Chung became one of the leaders of New England’s defense a major part of championship teams in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Playing in Belichick’s defense system is not easy, and Chung was able to line up differently and take on different assignments week in and week out. He did not have the bigger numbers or recognition that Devin McCourty, his fellow safety, had but he was nearly as important to New England’s success.
Moving forward, the Patriots are fortunately set at Chung’s strong safety position. Rookie Kyle Dugger looked like a future Pro Bowler in 2020 and Adrian Phillips was one of the most consistent defenders the Patriots had last season. The two of them will continue their work at Chung’s position and Belichick will also have certain packages where they are on the field together.
There have been many great players throughout the Patriots dynasty and Chung is firmly part of that group. Because he played a less glamorous position than other dynasty contemporaries, his retirement may not jump out as some others have. But anyone who watched the Patriots over the last decade knows the magnitude of Chung’s contributions.