Top Five Greatest Safeties In New England Patriots History

Who is the greatest safety in Patriots history?


Nov 3, 2022

The history of the New England Patriots is made up of all-time talent.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Rob Gronkowski had the most dominant stretch the NFL has ever seen out of a tight end. Sports Illustrated proclaimed John Hannah the “Greatest Offensive Lineman of All Time” halfway through his playing career. But one position in which the Patriots have been stacked with talent, especially in recent seasons, is safety.

Bill Belichick’s arrival to New England coincided with notable offensive innovation in the NFL. With teams throwing the ball more than ever, Belichick’s defenses were notably stocked with communicators and leaders in the secondary. During the Patriots’ two-decade long dynasty, talented safeties were a constant. They even had a couple solid ones before that.

Here are the absolute best.

5. Fred Marion (1982-1991)
There’s something to be said about being solid as a rock for a decade. That’s who Fred Marion was for the 1980’s Patriots.

Marion was the leader of a much-maligned Patriots secondary throughout the decade, serving as an equally effective defender against the run and pass. At the time of his retirement, Marion was rated second in Patriots history with 29 interceptions and guided New England to a Super Bowl run in 1985 in his lone All-Pro season. Much like a lot of former Patriots, lack of team success doesn’t help his case much.

4. Patrick Chung (2009-2012; 2014-2019)
Patrick Chung fit the Patriots defense like a glove. His lone season with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played in 12 games before being cut from a three-year, $10 million contract, was proof that sometimes a player-system fit is too good to break up.

Chung served as a chess piece in the secondary for New England across two stints that lasted a total of ten seasons. In his early years, Chung was used as a deep-third safety who was allowed to work downhill and punish those who would cross his path. In his second stint, the Oregon alum became a tight-end eraser and always drew the most physical opposing pass catcher. Throughout, he was a special teams ace who contributed in all phases.

His contributions were often understated, but the Patriots All-Dynasty Team member has three Super Bowl rings in his safe, so he probably doesn’t mind.

3. Lawyer Milloy (1996-2002)
Has there ever been a better aesthetic in Patriots history than Lawyer Milloy’s in the 1990’s? Sweatbands, the Bledsoe Blues, the baby blue bandana. No one was cooler than Milloy. He also happened to be a tremendous football player.

Milloy made four Pro Bowls in his seven seasons in New England, serving as a captain to some of the best secondary’s in Patriots history alongside Ty Law, Willie Clay and Otis Smith. Quickly making a fan out of Belichick, Milloy was called “one of the most impressive guys I ever talked to” by the usually tight-lipped coach and was the first player Belichick extended after taking over as head coach in 2000. Coincidentally, Milloy was cut for contract-related reasons in 2003 before signing with the Buffalo Bills and putting a butt-kicking on New England in his first game after departing.

A tone setter in every sense of the term, the Super Bowl XXXVI champion finished his Patriots career with 19 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

2. Rodney Harrison (2003-2008)
Make no mistake about it, Rodney Harrison is the greatest safety to ever don a Patriots uniform. There’s just one thing preventing him from occupying the number one spot on this list. He was better somewhere else.

Harrison arrived to New England just weeks before Milloy’s departure, essentially serving as the reason for cutting the four-time Pro Bowler. Harrison was a former All-Pro player himself, having compiled 26 interceptions and 21.5 sacks over nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers. The only thing he was missing to make a case for the Hall of Fame was team success, something the Patriots were able to bring him.

Harrison’s six seasons with the Patriots weren’t as impactful in the box score as his years in San Diego, but they were 10-times as impactful in terms of what he brought in leadership, communication and ability to orchestrate big plays. The image of him running down the field flapping his arms like an Eagle after sealing the Patriots’ third Super Bowl title is one fans in New England won’t soon forget.

1. Devin McCourty (2010-Present)
There may not be a better leader in the history of the Patriots than Devin McCourty.

To a man, former New England defenders will rave about McCourty’s impact as a voice in the locker room and on the field, both before and after kickoff. The author of speeches that would get anyone to run through a brick wall, McCourty became the first non-linebacker to wear the green dot for Belichick in the 2010s. The three-time Super Bowl champion turned a Pro Bowl season at cornerback into a decade-plus long run at safety that took what Milloy and Harrison did and expanded it tenfold. McCourty is a shoe in for the Patriots Hall of Fame when he decides to hang them up.

Honorable Mention: Eugene Wilson (2003-2007), Tim Fox (1976-1981), Roland James (1980-1990), Willie Clay (1996-1998), Duron Harmon (2013-2019)

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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