FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots have a handful of key players set to become free agents following the 2023 season. Perhaps none of them is bigger than Kyle Dugger.

The safety is entering his fourth season in the league and the final year of his rookie contract. The 2020 second-round pick has noticeably improved in each of his first three seasons in the league, proving to be a vital piece to the Patriots' defense as the unit has ranked among one of the best in the league in recent seasons.

So, is Dugger sweating out his contract situation? Is he anticipating a big payday? Or will he play the 2023 season looking to get a big contract at season's end?

“That’s not on my mind,” Dugger said of his contract situation on Tuesday following the Patriots' organized team activity made available to the media. “That’s the business part. I kind of … I’m on the field, I’m trying to handle business on the field and let that be that. But I definitely enjoy playing for this organization.”

While Dugger isn't concerned with his contract situation, his admission that he likes playing for the team is certainly big. The Patriots lost longtime free safety Devin McCourty this offseason when he announced his retirement from football in March, so keeping Dugger in town for the foreseeable future would be ideal.

But keeping things focused on the 2023 season, Dugger knows he has to step up and be the leader of the secondary now with McCourty gone.

“I’m ready,” Dugger said on being a leader. “I don’t have time to not be.”

Dugger mentioned that McCourty was “huge on communication” as he helped him grow over the last few seasons. He hopes to take what he learned from McCourty and spread it with the rest of the team.

“I’ve just got to remember everything that I learned from him, everything that I picked up from playing next to him and everything he taught me when he was in our room,” Dugger said. “I think the impact he had is definitely lasting. But we can’t really replace him.”