After winning his second Super Bowl with the New England Patriots last season, former Crimson Tide LB Dont'a Hightower has chose to come back to Boston and compete for another.
He earned $7.751 million in 2016, as the Patriots had picked up the fifth-year option of the five-year contract he had signed as a rookie. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Hightower's four-year contract is worth $43.5 million, with $19 million in guarantees. Carolina's Luke Kuechly remains the highest at $12.4 million per season.
Almost $11 million per year is no slouch of a deal at all.
Essentially, the Patriots painted themselves into a corner in terms of their need at Hightower's middle linebacker spot.
At 27, Hightower is young enough to be part of the Jets' rebuilding effort. However, the team opted not to do that and - as it did with Devin McCourty two years ago - gave the player a chance to explore his free agency value.
Dont'a Hightower is a monster in the middle of the Patriots defense when he's on the field. "They had 'Happy Birthday Dont'a Hightower" on all the screens inside the Jets training facility".
The 2012 first-round draft pick has been responsible for two of the most important plays in the Pats' most recent Super Bowl victories.
When the Jets go head to head with the Patriots, they typically lose. Hightower has 17.0 regular-season sacks for his career.
Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, and Kyle Van Noy could continue to be solid rotational linebackers behind Hightower moving forward. They've also signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and running back Rex Burkhead, traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, tight end Dwayne Allen and defensive end Kony Ealy, and re-signed defensive tackle Alan Branch and safety Duron Harmon.