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2017 NFL free agency: Jeff Howe offers updates on Patriots defenders Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch, Logan Ryan & Duron Harmon

Jeff Howe offers some updates on four Patriots defenders about to hit free agency.

Yesterday, it was announced that one of the New England Patriots’ free agents – defensive end Chris Long – will definitely leave the club this offseason. The statuses of other defenders about to hit free agency in one week are not that clear yet.

The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe offered some updates today, though. He took to Twitter to deliver further information about how the team approaches linebacker Dont’a Hightower, defensive tackle Alan Branch, and defensive backs Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. Let’s take a look at them.

LB Dont’a Hightower

While the Patriots did not place the franchise tag on their defensive captain, the two parties are still in talks about re-signing him:

Dont'a Hightower and Patriots are continuing to keep an open, productive dialogue, per source. Sides are aware of each other's parameters.

Once the NFL’s legal tampering window opens, New England and Hightower’s camp should get a clearer picture of what the linebacker is worth on the open market. Until then, it is likely that no deal will be reached.

DT Alan Branch

It seems as if New England plans on re-signing the veteran defensive tackle. Given that he was the team’s most consistent interior lineman last season, this does not come as a surprise.

The Patriots believe they made a solid offer to Alan Branch this week. They're deep in negotiations.

Branch is coming off the final season of a 2-year, $6.6 million contract he signed with the Patriots after the 2014 season. A new contract will likely look similar to the last one the 32-year old signed – and might come along sooner rather than later.

CB Logan Ryan & FS Duron Harmon

Two of New England’s top five defensive backs are about to become unrestricted free agents next week. And according to Howe, it seems as if they will test the market:

Looks like Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon will hit free agency then present their best offers to Pats to see if they'll be interested to match.

This is a similar approach to the one fellow defensive back Devin McCourty took two offseasons ago. While the fellow Rutgers product never actually hit free agency – he re-signed during the legal tampering period –, the market did set a benchmark for the Patriots to come close to.

In McCourty’s case, the team offered enough to convince the impending free agent to return to Foxboro. It remains to be seen if the same will happen with Ryan and Harmon.

Howe also answered questions about three of the Patriots’ skill position players as well as how the team is planning to address its defensive edge:

Bennett is going to free agency, wants to maximize his value.

Pats are interested in keeping Floyd on a budget deal, won't overextend for him.

Amendola has been open to renegotiating the final year of this deal since last spring. Those talks will happen soon.

The Patriots are expected to be heavily focused on edge rushers this offseason. I'd be surprised if they didn't draft two and sign one.

None of those four tweets are real surprises.