New England Patriots linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are up for new contracts at the end of the season. The duo form one of the best two or three linebacker pairings in the entire league and head coach Bill Belichick adores their capabilities on the field.
So when the San Francisco 49ers hand out a 4-year, $44 million extension to linebacker Navorro Bowman, who had three whole years left on his deal, you can be certain both sides of the Patriots negotiations perked up their ears.
So 49ers' LB Navorro Bowman gets 4-year, $44 million extension with 3 years left on his deal. This will get attention of teams and players.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 4, 2016
Bowman is now the second-highest paid linebacker in the league, behind the Panthers Luke Kuechly (depending on how you view Packers linebacker Clay Matthews). Bowman joins Kuechly, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David as the only backers earning more than $10 million per season.
Out of the gate, I will say that this new contract for Bowman might actually be beneficial to the Patriots as a definite cap for the Hightower and Collins contracts.
Kuechly is a three-time First Team All Pro and has won Defensive Player of the Year. Bowman is a four-time First Team All Pro. Wagner has been First and Second Team All Pro. David is a one-time First Team All Pro.
For the Patriots, Collins was Second Team All Pro this past year. Hightower has never even made the Pro Bowl.
So when we look at accolades, it’s pretty clear that those $10+ million linebackers are more well regarded than Collins and Hightower.
And then we have to factor in the future value of contracts. Bowman received $11 million per year starting in 2019. This means that one of the best three or four linebackers in the league will be making $11 million at the heart, or even the end, of Collins’ and Hightower’s upcoming deals.
So when the Patriots negotiate, they can point and say that the duo shouldn’t be earning more than $10 million now, and they definitely shouldn’t be making more than that four years down the road.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Hightower or Collins ink a deal with some serious guaranteed money, but one that averages out to slightly less than $10 million per year.
The deal with Bowman might actually serve as a blessing for the Patriots in their upcoming negotiations.