Beyond the Big 3: Patrick Chung

Where will Patrick Chung land in free agency? Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports

Much of the attention around pending Patriots free agents has been paid to Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, three of the team's critical starters. But the Patriots have a number of other free agents who could hit the open market on March 12, and we'll use this space to review them and recap their 2012 season.

Player: Patrick Chung

Position: Safety

Key 2012 stats: 12 games played, 8 starts, 44 tackles, 2 interceptions

Playing time (defense): 536 of 1,112 (48.2 percent)

2012 season recap: Chung began the season as a starter, but injuries and ineffective play pushed him down the depth chart, as he played just two defensive snaps in the AFC Championship Game. The issues for Chung appeared to be as a deep half-field defender, as he was unable to get to the sideline on deep throws down the field, and he also missed some critical open-field tackles due to poor angles. He had his best performance of the season in registering two interceptions against Jacksonville in Week 16. He has been a physical defender in previous seasons for the Patriots, but that style of play was not as prevalent in 2012.

Outlook: It seems like Chung's days in New England are over, as he effectively became the fourth safety on the depth chart by the end of last season. The Patriots have Devin McCourty as a starter at one safety and both Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson to compete for the other spot. For Chung, he still offers value to a team in the right situation, perhaps as a starter. He is a good proactive athlete with a willingness to defend the run and good ball skills. Keys for him will be staying healthy and being a disciplined tackler in space.

Projection: Not re-signed; lands a three-year deal elsewhere worth up to $12 million. Gregory was brought aboard last offseason on a three-year deal that pays him up to $7.5 million. Chung has superior physical skills to Gregory and is just 25, making him an intriguing prospect for a team in need of secondary help. A change of scenery could help Chung become the player he showed himself capable of being earlier in his career.