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For the third straight year, the Patriots have rewarded safety Patrick Chung with a pay raise. And the way they did it will surely interest disgruntled tight end Rob Gronkowski.

In 2016, the Patriots gave Chung a one-year extension. In 2017, they tacked on $1.7 million in incentives, which he earned in full.

This time, the Patriots gave Chung a two-year extension, or a new three-year deal that runs through the 2020 season. He was scheduled to make between $2-3 million in 2018 based on incentives and how many games he played, but now Chung will make between $5-5.4 million, with the incentives removed.

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Chung, who turns 31 in August, is one of the most important and versatile players on the Patriots defense. They use him as an extra linebacker in run support and as a slot cornerback in coverage, as Chung has the size, speed and physicality to cover both tight ends and receivers.

Chung was second on the Patriots with 78 tackles and nine passes defended in 2017, while adding an interception and two fumble recoveries. He has played in 74 of 75 games since re-joining the Patriots before the 2014 season (including playoffs), and in 2017 Chung played in 928 defensive snaps (87.55 percent), third on the Patriots behind Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty. Chung also played in 146 special teams snaps (32.37 percent), further adding to his value.

This contract should interest Gronkowski because the Patriots found a way to reward Chung with a higher salary without affecting his salary cap number. His cap number was $3.8 million for 2018 on his old deal, and it will remain $3.8 million despite the pay increase.

Gronkowski is currently on the books for a maximum of $9 million in 2019, with a cap number of $10.9 million. The star tight end wants a new deal (he is signed through 2020), and if the Patriots are so inclined, they can easily give him more money while maintaining or even lowering his salary cap number.

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The Patriots now have $10,963,858 in salary cap space, per the NFL Players Association, though that number does not account for the new two-year deal signed by Matthew Slater. They still have several ways to create more cap space, including new deals for Gronkowski and Tom Brady, and potentially releasing or restructuring tight end Dwayne Allen, who has no dead money on his $5 million cap number for this year.

Here are the full details of Chung’s new contract:

Maximum terms: Three years, $10.2 million

Guaranteed: $4 million

2018

Total cash: $5.4 million

Cap number: $3.8 million

Signing bonus: $3.6 million (guaranteed)

Base salary: $915,000

Roster bonus: $400,000 (guaranteed)

Roster bonus: $400,000 ($25,000 per game active)

Workout bonus: $85,000

2019

Total cash: $2.4 million (non-guaranteed)

Cap number: $4.2 million

Base salary: $1.9 million

Incentives: $600,000

Roster bonus: $400,000 ($25,000 per game active)

Workout bonus: $100,0000

2020

Total cash: $2.4 million (non-guaranteed)

Cap number: $4.2 million

Base salary: $1.9 million

Incentives: $600,000

Roster bonus: $400,000 ($25,000 per game active)

Workout bonus: $100,0000


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin