Patriots positional review: Safety

Continuing our positional review/offseason preview, here’s a look at the Patriots safeties, ordered in percentage of defensive snaps played.

Devin McCourty

Age: 26

2013 status: Played and started 15 games, missing the regular-season finale with a concussion. Led the safeties with more than 89 percent of the snaps played.

2013 highlights: McCourty was the ironman among the safety group and played extraordinarily in a captain role. Was named a second-team All Pro after recording 69 tackles to go along with an interception. Consistently minimized big plays and was an on-field communicator for the secondary.

Current contract runs through: 2014 season

Steve Gregory

Age: 31

2013 status: Played in 14 games, starting 11. Missed two games with a broken thumb.

2013 highlights: A steady veteran who led all secondary players with 79 tackles. Was responsible for wearing the green dot as an on-field communicator at times with Jerod Mayo out. Played more primarily as a rolled-up, strong safety rather than as a deep field defender. Lauded by teammates for his intelligence.

Current contract runs through: 2014 season

Duron Harmon

Age: 23

2013 status: Started three games out of 15 played during the regular season, filling in for both McCourty and Gregory.

2013 highlights: Had a steady rookie season, showing himself capable of playing both free and strong safety. Recorded interceptions in consecutive weeks. With both McCourty and Gregory entering the final year of their contracts, Harmon is a critical player in the secondary.

Current contract runs through: 2016 season

Tavon Wilson

Age: 23

2013 status: Played in 13 regular-season games without a start. Logged just 18 regular-season defensive snaps.

2013 highlights: Wilson has essentially become a core special teams player, making taking him in the second round last season look like a reach. He doesn’t have the requisite reactive athleticism to play as a deep, middle-of-the-field safety. Did not show signs of on-field defensive development from year one to Year 2.

Current contract runs through: 2015 season

Others on the roster: Nate Ebner (five defensive snaps in 2013), Kanorris Davis, Adrian Wilson (injured reserve).

POSITIONAL NEED: While safety may not be a major area of need for next season -- the Patriots were able to rely on the trio of McCourty, Gregory and Harmon in 2013 -- it’s an area to keep in mind for the future. McCourty strikes us as a possible extension candidate and a cornerstone defender for the franchise. But if he and Gregory are not signed to deals before next year’s free agency, the Patriots are at risk of losing one or both. Davis and Ebner are both special teams players, while Adrian Wilson could be a possible salary cap casualty given that he is coming off of an Achilles injury and would save the team $1.2 million. Adding another young safety seems plausible to help build insurance in case one of the two starters bolts next offseason.