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Patriots have asked LB Dont’a Hightower to replace Jerod Mayo, Willie McGinest

There isn’t a better endorsement than Hightower’s new place in the locker room.

The New England Patriots have shuffled around their locker room, according to WEEI’s Chris Price, and the implication is pretty obvious.

Dont’a Hightower is a leader of this franchise.

“Dont’a Hightower was given Jerod Mayo’s old locker, the one in the corner closest to the exit,” Price writes in his weekly notes. “That real estate has some history: When Gillette Stadium first opened in 2002, that was the exclusive domain of Willie McGinest, who used the spot to keep a close eye on everyone who was coming and going.”

Hightower is a free agent at the end of the season, but it’s pretty evident that the coaching staff and front office view him as the spiritual successor to Mayo, who retired back in February.

Mayo was a long time captain, which means that someone will have to take his place. Fellow captain Rob Ninkovich was injured this preseason, so the need is even greater. Don’t be surprised if Hightower is the man that steps up for the job.

The Patriots have to make a decision when it comes to signing players this offseason, with key defenders like Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Duron Harmon all up for contracts. The placement of Hightower in the corner is as ringing of an endorsement that we can get about whether or not the team expects him to be in their long term plans.

“That location isn’t handed out by accident,” Price writes. “It’s not given to guys who are here for a few years and then depart. The players who have gotten that spot are foundational elements of the franchise who end up sticking around for an extended stretch.”

I would expect Hightower and the Patriots to come to terms for a lengthy deal in the coming months.

Check out the rest of Price’s notes here, including good information on Tom Brady’s preseason usage and recent sightings of Drew Rosenhaus, the agent of Rob Gronkowski and Jabaal Sheard.