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Patriots apply transition tag on safety Kyle Dugger

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FOXBORO -- The Patriots played some tag on Tuesday. New England reportedly placed the transition tag on Kyle Dugger, which will give the team the ability to match any offer he receives from other teams in free agency.

The Patriots announced Tuesday afternoon that they were using the transition tag on Dugger. The tag will give Dugger a $13.8 million salary for the 2024 season, and will essentially make him a restricted free agent -- with a catch.

Dugger, 27, will still be able to negotiate with other teams, but the Patriots can match any deal he receives. However, unlike the franchise tag, the Patriots would not receive any draft compensation if they chose not to match Dugger's offer.

"Kyle is a talented player with a strong work ethic who has improved every year and been extremely productive since joining our team in 2020," Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo said in the team's release. "We value players with high character and chose to use the transition designation to give both sides more time to try to reach a long-term agreement, which is our goal with Kyle."

The transition tag is certainly not as prevalent as the franchise tag. The Patriots are the first team to use it since 2020, and Dugger is just the sixth player to get the transition tag over the last 15 years, per ESPN

But Tuesday could be the first move toward the Patriots and Dugger working out a long-term agreement this offseason.

The 2024 season will be Dugger's fifth in the NFL since the Patriots drafted him in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Lenoir-Rhyne University. It's not often you see a Division II player get drafted so early, but that's just how Bill Belichick operated.

Over the last four years, Dugger has emerged as a key member of the New England secondary on one of the NFL's best defenses. He played 98 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season, and set new career highs with 109 total tackles, 71 solo tackles, six tackles for a loss, and five QB hits to go along with two interceptions and a forced fumble in 2023.

For his career, Dugger has nine interceptions (two of which he's returned for touchdowns), two forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, and 343 total tackles over 61 games.

Teams had until 4 p.m. Tuesday to use either the franchise tag or the transition tag on an impending free agent, and can only use one of those tags per offseason. So Patriots offensive lineman Mike Onwenu will not be franchised by the team and will likely become an unrestricted free agent next week.

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