Patriots News: Kyle Dugger, Mike Onwenu and Tyquan Thornton

Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots
Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
1 of 3

Now that any conversation surrounding any possible trades is firmly in the past, reporters have decided to move on to looking ahead all the way to free agency next offseason.

That's where some of the latest news has come from regarding Kyle Dugger, a prominent name among the 21 players hoping for a new contract in New England or elsewhere in the league.

Kyle Dugger says he is "all in" when discussing pending free agency

Among the lengthy list of players heading to free agency at the end of the season is Kyle Dugger, a rising star in the Patriots' secondary who has quickly become a pillar of what could be one of the best defenses in the entire National Football League.

Given his increased importance on game day, he has become one of the leading names that most believe Bill Belichick needs to prioritize to re-sign this offseason, something the head coach has deterred from in recent years when it's time for a player to be signed to a second contract.

But Dugger has very clearly earned his spot on the team and deserves to remain in New England, which is something he has expressed a desire for.

Although free agency doesn't begin for several months, reporters are already asking players their thoughts on remaining in New England or signing elsewhere. Most, of course, will claim to be open to staying because why would they say otherwise?

When Dugger was asked earlier this week about hitting free agency for the first time in his career, his detailed answer and passion for his teammates made it seem more credible than the typical PC answer that others would have responded with.

"I feel like I'm all-in. I feel like that's the only way to be, regardless of anything else. I feel like really kind of looking outside of that, that's a recipe for disaster. I feel like I'm all-in. Trying to be in the present as much as possible and fix things, get things going right now where we're at.

I still feel like it's a special group, regardless of the outcomes thus far this season. I feel like I want to be part of that. I want to continue to build with this group."

His investment in the team and the group around him is evident and makes sense when looking back at what the defense looked like when he first arrived. Dugger rose to stardom quickly once given the opportunity and has become a valuable asset whose absence is apparent when he's not on the field.

He was given a large task this season with needing to help bridge the gap after Devin McCourty's retirement. Although his season has gone a bit under the radar, his determination to keep the defense motivated despite their losing record and his assentation into a leadership role have made the idea of re-signing him a complete no-brainer.

Because of the value he has accrued over the last four years, Dugger was a primary name to be traded before the deadline earlier this week, with a few teams reportedly inquiring about trading for him before the Patriots decided to do so. That means he will likely have several offers if and when he hits the free agent market, making it a smarter idea for Belichick to get an extension done as soon as possible.

The good thing is Dugger expressed he wants to stay with the team and continue to be a leader for the defense.

"I want to be whatever the team needs, and that in itself is a form of leadership. I feel like it's the best form of leadership. Not necessarily being the vocal guy or whatever, but whatever the team needs, I definitely want to be that."

Hopefully, Belichick will get the memo and ensure Dugger is a prioritized re-signing this season, avoiding another mistake like allowing Jakobi Meyers to sign elsewhere last year. Fans will not be able to handle a similar situation just one year later, so let's not even discuss the possibility.