The dust is finally starting to settle after Wednesday’s news that Dont’a Hightower is returning to Foxborough. His new four-year deal is worth up to $43.5 million.
It is common place for the initial reported figure to reflect the maximum value, and in many cases the figure is released by the agent. However, the true measure of a contract lies within its details. Most of those details were provided early Thursday morning by MMQB's Albert Breer.
Hightower's $35.5M over 4: $10M SB; $22M in base; $3.5M in per-game roster bonuses. On top of that, incentives for p/t, Pro Bowl, All-Pro.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 16, 2017
Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported on Hightower’s salaries per year:
Dont'a Hightower: $35.5M base value, $10M signing bonus, $19M gtd, salaries $1.25M (gtd), $5.75M (gtd), $7M (full gt '19 5th day, $2M incent— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 16, 2017
Breer also reported that the deal includes $875,000 in per-game active roster bonuses each year. This bonus structure is a tool the Patriots often utilize to reduce a portion of the injury risk that a play presents. At 54,688 per game, Hightower now carries the largest per-game bonus on the roster. Jabaal Sheard’s $1,000,000 roster bonus ($62,500 per game) was the team’s largest in 2016.
At $17 million fully guaranteed, the deal gives the two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker the fourth most guaranteed dollars, according to overthecap.com. Luke Kuechly, Brian Cushing, and former Patriots colleague Jamie Collins are the only players with more.
The contract’s structure is quintessential Patriots; rich with incentives and maintaining a low year-onecap charge. The finite details of the $2 million per year incentives for playing time and being named to the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams have yet to be released, which could change his 2017 cap charge since he was voted 2016 Pro Bowl, which would make this year’s incentive “likely to be earned”. With that in mind, here are the current cap charges for each season of Hightower’s new deal:
2017 - $4,460,938
2018 - $9,125,000
2019 - $10,375,000
2020 - $11,375,000
More to come regarding how the deal impacts the Patriots’ salary cap in 2017, and the state of the team’s cap moving forward.
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