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Globe: Final contract details for Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower shows concerns about health

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The Patriots have tied Hightower’s income to his availability.

We previously knew the general contract structure for New England Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower, but the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin has provided the last pieces of information to show how the the linebacker can make the most of his new deal.

“The final details of Dont’a Hightower’s new four-year, $43 million contract are in, and a nice chunk is based on him staying healthy,” Volin reports. “In all four years, Hightower earns $54,687.50 for every game he is active (maximum of $875,000 per season) — or, put another way, he loses that much for every game he misses. Hightower also has $2 million in incentives in all four years — $375,000 if he plays in 65 percent of snaps, another $250,000 for 70 percent, another $250,000 for 75 percent, and another $125,000 for 80 percent, plus $500,000 bonuses for earning first-team All-Pro or making the Pro Bowl on the original ballot.”

Translation:

Length: 4 years
Signing bonus: $10 million
Base salaries: $22 million
Active roster bonus: $3.5 million
Snap count bonus: $4 million
All Pro bonus: $2 million
First ballot Pro Bowl: $2 million
Total: $43.5 million

Hightower’s contract is heavily linked to whether or not he will be available to play. Hightower’s 2017 and 2018 base salaries are guaranteed and he received $10 million as a signing bonus, so he effectively has $17 million in the bank.

But it’s clear that if Hightower wants to see the full $43 million, he has to stay on the field.

Hightower has played 65.1% of defensive snaps over the course of his career, but he has never played more than 80% in a single season. He has only played 16 games once in his five-year career and has earned First Team All Pro or First Ballot Pro Bowl distinction just once.

If Hightower played his average season (13 games, 65.1% snaps, no superlative awards), he would miss out on $1.789 million in annual bonuses. And since Pro Bowl and All Pro distinctions are inherently linked to Hightower playing enough over the course of the season, $2.875 million per season is linked to Hightower’s health.