Report: Patriots Deep In Discussions With Hightower, Branch

BOSTON (CBS) — Dont’a Hightower may be about to test the free agent market, but that doesn’t mean the Patriots haven’t given up on keeping him.

The team and its defensive captain are “continuing to keep an open, productive dialogue” regarding a potential contract extension, a source told The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. Howe tweeted on Thursday that the two sides are “aware of each other’s parameters,” implying that some distance remains between them on an agreement.

As part of a slew of updates on the Patriots’ offseason plans, Howe also tweeted that the Patriots “believe they made a solid offer” to pending unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Alan Branch. The Patriots paid Branch a base salary of $1.2 million in the past two seasons. Considering his strong contributions to the defense, he could be due for a pay raise.

Howe also updated the situations for pending free agents Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. Both are expected to test the market, present their best offers to the Patriots, and see if the team is interested in matching them. Ryan, in particular, could be headed elsewhere as one of the best cornerbacks on the market.

On the offensive side of the ball, receiver Danny Amendola is expected to open restructuring talks with the Patriots “soon,” according to Howe. Martellus Bennett, to the surprise of no one, is still expected to hit free agency and “maximize his value.” However, the Patriots are reportedly open to bringing back receiver Michael Floyd on a “budget deal.”

As for potential additions to the Patriots in the offseason, Howe added that the Patriots are expected to be “heavily focused” on adding edge rushers with Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard expected to depart via free agency. Trey Flowers is the only pure defensive end left on the 2017 payroll, with Rob Ninkovich and special teamer Geneo Grissom potentially backing him up.

All in all, a busy start to what should be a busy offseason for the Super Bowl champs.

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