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2017 NFL Free Agency: Patriots re-sign LB Dont’a Hightower to 4-year, $43.5 million contract

The New England Patriots retain their defensive captain on a long-term contract.

The New England Patriots continue to make waves in free agency as they manage to retain defensive captain Dont’a Hightower, per Adam Schefter. Hightower was deciding among the Patriots, New York Jets, and Pittsburgh Steelers – and New England is his choice:

Dont'a Hightower is returning to the New England Patriots, sources tell ESPN. New England's off-season rolls on.

Hightower will likely join the highest paid stand-up linebackers in the NFL now, right alongside former teammate and now Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamie Collins ($12.50 million), the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly ($12.36 million), the Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner ($10.75 million), the San Francisco 49ers’ LB Navorro Bowman ($10.50 million), and Buccaneers LB Lavonte David ($10.05 million).

The Patriots selected Hightower with the 25th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6’3, 265 pound linebacker settled into the middle of the Patriots defense and was named a team captain in 2016 and earned Second Team All Pro distinction. The 27-year old is also wearing the communication device in his helmet, calling the defensive on-field signals.

Hightower has played 67 of a possible 80 regular season games and has racked up 404 tackles, 17 sacks, and 13 passes defended. He made two of the most impactful plays in the Patriots past two Super Bowl championships, stopping Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch on the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX and forcing a strip sack on Falcons QB Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI.

Congratulations to Hightower.

The Patriots current linebacker depth chart is now Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Jonathan Freeny, and Trevor Bates. New England might still address the depth but for now has been able to keep the top of its 2016 linebacker corps intact.

[UPDATE 1:36 pm ET] According to Ian Rapoport, Hightower’s contract is a 4-year deal worth $43.5 million with $19 million in guarantees. This makes him the third-highest paid linebacker behind Collins and Kuechly.