Dont’a Hightower isn’t going anywhere. He’s re-signing with the Patriots, according to his agents (on Twitter). It’s a four-year, $43.5MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The pact includes $19MM guaranteed.
Hightower also had offers from the Steelers and Jets. The Jets, at one point, reportedly offered upwards of $12MM per year, but Hightower actually rejected that offer two days ago and never considered signing there (via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald on Twitter). As I tweeted earlier today, that’s not a surprise. Few expected Hightower to ultimately leave the defending champs and all of his suitors seemed dubious about his openness to sign elsewhere.
Hightower was reportedly seeking around $12MM per year and the Patriots were rumored to be offering something in the $10MM/year range for the last few weeks. Based on what we know, it sounds like the Pats more or less met him in the middle – he gets an average annual value of $10.875MM with a decent amount in guarantees. Of course, we won’t have a full understanding of the deal until we know what the cashflow is like. If the majority of the guaranteed cash comes to the linebacker in the first two seasons, then we’ll chalk this up as a solid deal for Hightower and his agents at SportsTrust.
Regardless of the payout, Hightower automatically wins on two fronts. First, he re-signed with the Patriots and they were far and away his preferred landing spot. Secondly, he only signed for four years, so he’ll still be able to hit free agency before his age-31 season. If he continues to hold his position as the best non-rush linebacker in the NFL, he should be able to cash in again before the 2021 campaign.
Hightower finished the 2016 campaign with 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in 13 games. Before the start of free agency, we listed him as the best available linebacker in our free agent positional rankings. After the first wave of free agency saw cornerback A.J. Bouye and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery come off the board, Hightower was far and away the best player left on the open market.
Hightower is now the second-highest paid true linebacker in the NFL, based on AAV. Only Luke Kuechly of the Panthers ($12.4MM) earns more than him per year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.