After a lengthy free agency tour, linebacker Dont’a Hightower has finally re-signed with the Patriots. After talking to the Jets and Steelers, Hightower decided to return to New England on a 4 year/$43.5 million dollar deal with $19 million dollars guaranteed.
Keeping Hightower was key for the Patriots, considering their linebacking corps outside of Hightower last year left a lot to be desired. If the Patriots lost Hightower, they would have been left with a linebacking group Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, and Elandon Roberts. That’s not pretty. The Hightower signing doesn’t completely sure up that linebacking core, but it would be a complete dumpster fire if he had left. They likely still need to upgrade at least one of those spots, but as long as they have Hightower, they’ll be okay.
It looked bleak there for a while with Hightower. Rumors started to leak out that the Patriots weren’t offering the money he wanted. People started reading into a podcast he did with Adam Schefter a little too much. But after reports started coming out that even the teams chasing him were convinced he was returning to the Patriots, all of New England was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Hightower returning is obviously great for the Patriots, but it might mean more for Hightower. He made two of the biggest plays in Patriots history in the two biggest games of his career. The importance of Hightower goes beyond just his ability, this guy is a winner. He’s played for arguably the two biggest programs in all of football since his college days at Alabama, and Hightower is a player that embraces that spotlight more than most. Whether he’s facing a 25 point deficit, or one of the all time great running backs in NFL history, Hightower plays up to the moment. And on a team with championship aspirations, that’s more important than any games played or snaps played stat Hightower haters can drum up.
Hightower is well on his way to being in the conversation for being one of the greatest Patriots in franchise history. I don’t know where he would rank now, but if he can continue to play at a pro bowl level, he will be right there with the Tedy Bruschi’s and Willie McGinest’s of the world. He has already been one of the 3 or 4 most important Patriots over the past 4 years, and he’s just getting started. He hasn’t even played a down off his rookie contract yet! Patriots fans should have the same confidence in Hightower running their defense that they have in Tom Brady running their offense. He’s that good. He has been nothing short of outstanding in his career, and we should expect continued success out of the monster linebacker.
So far, this offseason looks like it could be the best in the history of the franchise. Only winning can prove that statement to be true.Note to the Patriots: Just match any offer to Malcolm Butler. Please! If the Pats can do that, they’ll be looking mighty strong. At that point, you could argue that they don’t even need the pick that they could potentially get in a Garoppolo trade. Things are looking a whole lot better than they did 2 weeks ago for New England. The Patriots didn’t hold back after winning the championship. This kind of aggressiveness out of a defending champion is absolutely shocking. Dont’a Hightower is well on his way to a hall of fame career. Welcome back Dont’a!
Photo: (Pats Pulpit)