According to Adam Schefter on Tuesday afternoon, per Dont’a Hightower’s management firm SportsTrust Advisors, the two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker will not receive the franchise tag from the Patriots, and will be allowed to test the open market in free agency.
Of course this now means that there is a real possibility that New England won’t retain any of the original “big three”, after trading away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins in 2016.
The lack of an extension by the end of the 2016 calendar year came as a surprise to Patriots cap expert Miguel Benzan in a conversation we had with him last week.
“I would’ve bet that the deal would get done by the (12/31/16) deadline. I was totally wrong about that one.” Benzan said.
A deal completed by that deadline would have ensured the reduction of future dead money in the later years of the contract. The fact that the deal never came to fruition at that point was a telling sign that the two sides were still far apart, and likely were going to table talks until after the season.
Hightower, about to 27 in a couple of weeks, has earned $15,479,877 in his career to date, not including playoff pay, which is considered a benefit under the current CBA. The 2017 franchise tag for linebackers is projected in the high $14 million range.
With former linebacking colleague Jamie Collins inking a deal with over $26 million guaranteed and worth $12.5 million APY, many feel Hightower, now with two rings, will be looking to become the highest paid non-edge linebacker in football.
Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero reported Tuesday afternoon that he was told “...the ballpark asking price Hightower was seeking “a couple of weeks ago” was $11 million per season. And as players and agents often do, the price could have only climbed as free agency, which begins March 9, draws closer.”
With $61.5 million in cap space, the Patriots certainly will have the monetary ammunition to match any offer Hightower receives on the open market. The major question that remains is; how much will it take for him to come back to Foxborough?