Sharing swirling thoughts on safeties

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
12:00
PM ET
One Patriots-based theme that has come to the forefront in recent days is the safety position.

Rodney Harrison was the catalyst, which seemed to spark an influx of questions to the weekly mailbag. With colleague Field Yates then posting his safety breakdown as part of our 2013 review series, it has all come together and what has resulted is some criticism of a specific part of our analysis from readers -- Steve Gregory's place on the roster.

In the comments section of the mailbag, "Ryan Knapp" writes, "Really getting old how much Mike sticks up for Gregory. ... I just don't see the upside to keeping him around."

I received multiple tweets (like this one) that echoed similar thoughts.

My take on Gregory is that he's the type of smart, consistent veteran that can help a winning team, both on defense and as a personal protector on the punt team. He was a big reason why the Patriots had a significant reduction in big pass plays surrendered. At the same time, Gregory doesn't have the physical upside of top-tier players at the position and there are times when his missed tackles show up as an obvious negative.

Overall, my feeling is that Gregory has been an upgrade over Patrick Chung (who has drawn his own criticism in Philadelphia) and James Ihedigbo (who shouldn't feel secure in his standing after hearing general manager Ozzie Newsome say that one of the Ravens' offseason goals is to improve their athleticism at the position).

The question is whether the Patriots feel that Gregory's value is worth a 2014 base salary of $2.25 million, and a salary cap charge of $3.5 million.

Those are significant numbers from a team perspective, especially when considering that the Patriots' 2013 plans initially included the inclusion of veteran safety Adrian Wilson, which had it worked out would have probably reduced Gregory's playing time (72.7 percent in 2013).

So when it comes to assessing possible roster moves/restructures based on the financial picture, Gregory could still get a hard look from the Patriots' management team.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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