FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — One of the biggest question marks of the Patriots’ offseason appears to now be resolved.
After meeting with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, Dont’a Hightower has decided to return to New England, according to a tweet from the agency that represents the free agent linebacker.
The team has offered Hightower a four-year deal worth $43.5 million, $19 million of which is guaranteed, reports ESPN’s NFL insider, Adam Schefter.
Hightower, who just turned 27, is one of the Patriots’ defensive captains and racked up 65 tackles last season, despite missing three games due to injury. Plus, fans won’t soon forget Hightower’s strip-sack of Falcons QB Matt Ryan, which was arguably the most important play of New England’s historic comeback in the Super Bowl last month.
Despite bringing home their second title in just three years, the Patriots are not resting on their laurels this offseason. In addition to Hightower, the team has also retained DT Alan Branch and S Duron Harmon while bringing in CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen, and RB Rex Burkhead.
The question that remains is the status of Malcolm Butler, who met with the Saints this week. The star corner was speculated to be part of the trade for Cooks, but the Patriots instead swapped draft picks with the Saints to complete the deal.
The Patriots placed a first-round tender on Butler worth $3.91 million. Since he’s a restricted free agent, the Patriots have the right to match any offer he agrees to elsewhere and if they decline to do so, the team that gets Butler has to surrender a first-round draft pick to New England. In New Orleans’ case, that would be the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft.