BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots retained their defensive captain this offseason, signing Dont’a Hightower to a four-year deal after letting the linebacker hit unrestricted free agency. It appeared as if Hightower could be jumping ship to one of the Patriots’ conference rivals, but it turns out that his injury history is what ultimately deterred them.
That’s what The MMQB’s Albert Breer said on CSNNE along with Phil Perry on Sunday, when he explained why both the Jets and Steelers ultimately declined to give Hightower a competitive offer. According to Breer, both teams “looked at his physical and backed off.”
Despite Hightower’s major impact on the Patriots defense when he’s on the field, the linebacker has also battled multiple injuries throughout his career. He has missed 11 games in the past three seasons, often dealing with injuries to his knees and shoulders.
Hightower ranked No. 94 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 players list, as voted on by his peers. He also earned second team All-Pro honors in 2016 and made the biggest defensive play of Super Bowl LI with his strip-sack on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Patriots also signed linebacker David Harris this offseason. The former Jet could be the designated backup for Hightower due to his football smarts and experience calling plays on the field.