BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have yet to reach an agreement on an extension with unrestricted free agent-to-be Dont’a Hightower, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t tried. Based on a new report, Hightower will potentially put pressure on the Patriots to pay him at the top of the market.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on Wednesday that before the season, Hightower turned down a multi-year extension worth more than $10 million annually. The offer “didn’t take” for the Patriots. Rapoport was responding to a tweet by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe that estimated a “fair deal” for Hightower at five years, $51 million and around $20 million guaranteed.
If Hightower becomes a free agent, he could have a chance to land a long-term deal with another team that’s closer to the five-year, $61 million deal that inside linebacker Luke Kuechly signed with the Carolina Panthers. That deal included a $19 million signing bonus and totaled just over $34.3 million guaranteed. The Patriots also have the option of applying the franchise tag to Hightower, which they can do starting on Feb. 15. The franchise tag number for linebackers was at $14.129 million in 2016 and is expected to rise to around $15 million in 2017.
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Hightower may have earned himself a lucrative long-term deal (whether in New England or elsewhere) with his performance in Super Bowl LI, including arguably the biggest play of the game with his strip-sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. He also made a game-saving tackle on Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX, just before Malcolm Butler’s interception.
The Patriots’ defensive captain joined ESPN’s NFL Live on Wednesday to talk about the potential of hitting free agency, and said he’s sure that he and the Patriots “will be in touch whenever that time comes.” He added, “I’m going to soak up this Super Bowl LI. I haven’t had enough of that yet.”
Though Hightower clearly would love to stay with the Patriots as long as they are contending for Lombardi Trophies. But, like any NFL player with a chance to cash in, he also appears willing to see what other teams can offer him.
“I love what I have in New England,” said Hightower. “I don’t have too much drawn up. I just want to be respected and loved.”