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The New England Patriots are taking a half-measure toward retaining pending free agent safety Kyle Dugger since they are placing the transition tag on him, according to CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones

There are a few critical differences between the transition tag, which is being used on Dugger, instead of the usual franchise tag. One key difference is the price point. The franchise tag is a one-year fully guaranteed salary of the average of the top five salaries at a given player's position over the last five years, or 120% of the tagged player's prior salary, whichever is greater. The franchise tag number this offseason is $17.1 million. The transition tag is a one-year, fully guaranteed salary of the average of the top 10 player salaries at the tagged player's position. 

That is why Dugger will receive $13.8 million on the transition tag instead of the $17.1 million associated with this offseason's safety franchise tag. Another key differentiator between the two tags is the control the tagging team wields if other NFL clubs would like to come swipe the player they just tagged. When a player is on the franchise tag, they can negotiate with the league's 31 other teams, but their current team has the right to match any offer or take two first-round picks if another team signs their franchise-tagged player. 

All the transition tag does is grant the tagging team the right of first refusal to match any contract offer their tagged player may receive. If Dugger were to be signed by another team to a multiyear deal, and the Patriots decide not to match, they will lose him without compensation. 

The Patriots will have the ability to sign Dugger to a multiyear deal, should they choose to do so, at any time prior to next offseason, unlike the franchise tag, which has a hard deadline for multiyear extensions on July 15 this summer. Dugger is only the sixth player in the last 10 seasons to have the transition tag placed on them, according to CBS Sports NFL staff writer John Breech. Four of the previous five to be transition tagged remained with the team that tagged them: Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (2020), Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (2018), Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack (2014) and Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher Jason Worilds (2014). Tight end Charles Clay is the only one who left off of the transition tag in this span, signing a five-year, $38 million deal with the Buffalo Bills after the Miami Dolphins placed the transition tag on him. 

Dugger is a playmaker: he is one of only two players with multiple interceptions and five or more tackles for loss in each of the last three seasons, since he became a full-time starter, along with two-time Super Bowl champion Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, who was franchise tagged this offseason. 

The likely reason for why the Patriots decided to apply the transition tag instead of the franchise tag on Dugger is because he had some struggles in coverage in 2023. Pro Football Focus assigned him a coverage grade of 50.0 for this past season, ranking 100th out of 108 safeties who played at least 200 snaps. He remains a solid run-stuffing safety (his PFF run defense grade of 79.6 is the 13th best in the league among those with at least 200 snaps), and maybe the Patriots' new coaching staff led by new head coach Jerod Mayo is what Duggers needs to refocus. 

New England entered free agency with the most effective cap space in the entire league ($93 million, per, so they aren't making this move strictly because they need him to have a lower cap hit in 2024. Dugger's nine interceptions since 2021 lead the Patriots in that span. 

Kyle Dugger Patriots ranks 
Past 3 seasons

NE Rank




Passes Defensed






Tackles for loss



* Dugger became a full-starting safety three seasons ago in 2021

Dugger's nine interceptions since becoming a full-time starting safety in 2021 are also tied for the seventh-most in the NFL at his position along with Bills Pro Bowl safety Jordan Poyer