Patriots Retain Dont'a Hightower On Four-Year Deal

Such is the case with Dont'a Hightower, who New England are re-signing to a four-year deal worth up to $43.5 million with $19 million guaranteed.

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The Jets have taken a low-key approach in free agency, but they really want Hightower and they're willing to give him a blockbuster contract.

There are some macro-level stats that show how important Hightower has been to the defense. And the insane part is, there's probably more still to come.

Should the Patriots pay the price for Dont'a Hightower? A full-blown rebuild might as well, but the Jets seem to be floating somewhere between the two classifications. In the games he played, Patriots opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 81.8; in the 11 games Hightower missed, their opposing passer rating was 88.0. They faced the likes of Kyle Orton (twice), Sam Bradford, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. To be the defensive captain is an honor, so it's telling Hightower's that guy for them.

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There were two other recent games that provided a glimpse of how the Patriots defense could have looked without Hightower, particularly against the run. There were a lot of big plays made in the Patriots 25 point comeback Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but Hightower made one of the biggest.

It is believed the Jets have offered between $12 million and $13 million per season to Hightower. With Hightower on the field, Cowboys running backs averaged 2.8 yards per carry; after Hightower left, they averaged 4.2 yards per carry.

It's easy to understand Mike Maccagnan's desire to add young, emerging players and even though Hightower fits that bill, he doesn't fit an area of need for the Jets. He's also a leader on and off the field for a very talented defense, is a formidable tackler and is arguably the best blitzing inside linebacker in the NFL. But without No. 54, that linebacking group would have been uninspiring, to say the least.

Dont'a Hightower is a gifted player, and if the Jets do sign him, he would be one of the highest paid inside linebackers around. Adding Hightower would've been a mistake. Ultimately, Hightower chose to remain with his Super Bowl winning teammates in New England.

  • Lawrence Cooper