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How much would it have cost the Patriots to keep their Big Three of Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Chandler Jones?

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The Patriots Big Three have all signed contracts, but with three different teams. How much would it have cost the Patriots to keep all three players?

The New England Patriots allowed CB Darrelle Revis to walk after winning Super Bowl XLIX because the team had a big three of young defensive stars to retain in EDGE Chandler Jones, LB Jamie Collins, and LB Dont’a Hightower.

All three players have signed their long-term extensions, but instead of staying with the Patriots they are spread around the country.

Jones signed a 5-year, $82.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals after the Patriots sent him packing for a 2nd round pick. Collins signed a 4-year, $50 million deal with the Cleveland Browns after the Patriots traded him for a late 3rd round selection. And Hightower just signed his 4-year, $43.5 million deal with the Patriots.

Based off of these monstrous contracts, we can see how much it would have cost the Patriots to retain all three players. This isn’t an exact science; Hightower took less money to stay in New England, while the Browns had to pay Collins extra to make him stay. But it’s a fun exercise for the heck of it.

2017 Cap Hits

Chandler Jones: $10 million
Jamie Collins: $12.4 million
Dont’a Hightower: $4.6 million
Total: $27 million

Hightower’s cap hit is actually a little less because $875,000 of his annual salary is wrapped up in being active on game day and he only played in 13 games of 2016, meaning that only 13 of those game day bonuses currently count against the cap as “Likely To Be Earned.”

Jones and Collins will get the big bucks, while Hightower’s going to count for about half of Collins’ cap hit this upcoming season. It’s almost as if the Patriots are planning on making another big signing and need the cap space...

If the Patriots kept this trio, it would account for about 15.5% of the team’s adjusted salary cap.

2018 Cap Hits

Chandler Jones: $15.5 million
Jamie Collins: $12.3 million
Dont’a Hightower: $9.125 million
Total: $36.9 million

Collins’ cap hit actually drops in year two, while Jones’ and Hightower’s both spike upwards. All three players will be in their prime, but this is a whole lot of cap space wrapped up in three players. If the cap continues to grow at $12 million per year, then they would account for 21% of the salary cap.

2019 Cap Hits

Chandler Jones: $19.5 million
Jamie Collins: $11.65 million
Dont’a Hightower: $10.375 million
Total: $41.525 million

Jones’ cap continues to skyrocket, while Collins’ continues to drop. Hightower’s cap hit grows slightly. These contracts would account for a projected 22% of the salary cap, which is a ludicrous percentage to invest in three players. The Patriots would have to start restructuring players this year.

2020 Cap Hits

Chandler Jones: $19 million
Jamie Collins: $13.65 million
Dont’a Hightower: $11.375 million
Total: $44.025 million

This represents the biggest combined cap hit, although it represents a slightly smaller percentage of the salary cap than the 2019 trio- although still close to 22% of the cap. The Patriots would need to restructure again.

2021 Cap Hits

Chandler Jones: $18.5 million
Jamie Collins: N/A
Dont’a Hightower: N/A
Total: $18.5 million

Jones is the only player still under contract at this point.