Bringing Dont’a Hightower back must be the New England Patriots’ top off season priority.
The New England Patriots’ come-from-behind Super Bowl 51 victory will undoubtedly go down in history. They erased a 25-point lead late in the second half and won the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense undoubtedly deserves a ton of credit for the Super Bowl victory. Brady led the Patriots to five consecutive scoring drives to end the game, four of which were touchdowns. He had to be perfect down the stretch for the Patriots to even have a chance. However, the same was true for their defense.
While the Pats offense was scoring at will, their defense was basically perfect as well. They shut down the high-powered Falcons offense on their last four drives of the game. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the leader of that defense, and his play undoubtedly had a lot to do with the comeback.
Everybody is talking about his incredible strip sack that was the big defensive play that the Patriots had to have, but Hightower had a rock solid game overall as usual. He is an absolute force against the run, solid in pass coverage and great at getting pressure on the quarterback. Simply put, the Patriots would not have won the Super Bowl without him this season.
Hightower enters free agency for the first time this offseason, and he is undoubtedly set up to get a big payday. The New England Patriots have a lot of players to take care of this off season, but Hightower needs to be their top priority.
Getting him to accept a long-term contract would be ideal, but it is not going to be cheap. Jamie Collins‘ contract with the Cleveland Browns is a good place to start. Collins landed a four-year, $50 million contract, with over half of the deal being guaranteed. I think that deal will be close to what we will see for Hightower.
I expect that he will look to get more than his former teammate, but probably not significantly more. Hightower would undoubtedly get paid in a big way if he were to reach free agency. The Patriots are going to have to pay him a big contract, but do not be surprised if he takes a bit of a hometown discount.
Regardless how the long-term contract negotiations go, the New England Patriots must make sure that they get Hightower back. If that means slapping the franchise tag on him, so be it. The franchise tag number for a linebacker is projected to be $14.75 million. That is undoubtedly huge money, but Hightower is an incredible player who would be worth it.
Simply put, the New England Patriots cannot afford to lose Hightower. He is a massively important part of their defense and both sides know it. A long-term contract is obviously preferred, but the Patriots should not be afraid to use the franchise tag. Hightower is a caliber of player who you simply cannot afford to let go.