Extension in works for Patrick Chung gives Pats head start on '19 plans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots and starting safety Patrick Chung are close to finalizing a contract extension, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, which gives the team a head start on free-agent planning for 2019.

The Patriots have some top players set for free agency in 2019, a group headlined by receivers Brandin Cooks, defensive end Trey Flowers, and starting right guard Shaq Mason. Now they can take Chung, who is closer to the end of his career than the aforementioned three players, off the list.

Other Patriots players set to become free agents in 2019 include punter Ryan Allen, long-snapper Joe Cardona, fullback James Develin, receiver Chris Hogan, safety Jordan Richards and cornerback Eric Rowe. Defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown could be added to the list if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options for the 2019 season, which project to be worth about $7 million per deal.

Chung's revival in his second stint in New England is well-documented and serves as yet another reminder of the ever-evolving -- and unpredictable -- process of team-building.

When Chung was re-signed by the Patriots on April 3, 2014, after spending one forgettable season in Philadelphia, the collective Twitter accounts of Patriots followers nearly exploded as if to say, "How is this move going to help?"

That is because Chung's first stint with the team, which began when he was selected No. 34 overall in 2009, ended with the sides both agreeing that a parting of ways was best. Naturally, expectations were low for Chung the second time around, which was reflective in something I wrote that day: "He will have to compete for a roster spot and shouldn't be viewed as a roster lock."

Chung has since turned into a core player, with coach Bill Belichick saying the team didn't utilize him properly early in his career and Chung noting that he matured as a player.

The combination has worked, with Chung recently saying he wouldn't want to play for anyone other than Belichick: "When he's done, I'm done."

That's why it is no surprise the sides would extend his deal, giving the team a head start on 2019 plans.