A year ago, we wrote here that among the top three defenders on the Patriots with Hightower, Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones, that Hightower was the key cog in re-signing first.
Though championships are nothing new for Hightower, he did enjoy several career firsts in 2016. The only one that compares in pay is Panthers' Luke Kuechly, who now is the highest paid making $12.3 million a year, according to the New York Post. Collins and Kuechly's yearly averages are $12.50 million and $12.36 million, respectively. Hightower is a complete linebacker, and the loss of him would have been crippling to the Patriots. They'd probably have to offer considerably more than the Patriots, who negotiate with the arrogance of a organization that has won five Super Bowl titles.
The Steelers seemed to sense that Hightower wasn't going anywhere in the end, and you'd have to think the Jets figured this out eventually, too. Detroit has added some defensive linemen, a cornerback and a replacement-level linebacker in free agency, but they've only gotten worse at linebacker, especially after the team surprisingly released DeAndre Levy last Thursday. "They had 'Happy Birthday Dont'a Hightower" on all the screens inside the Jets training facility". They drafted him, he won two Super Bowls with them, and made the Pro Bowl past year.
Dont'a Hightower is set to be become one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL. It's unclear if the Jets offered him a contract.
This is a good situation for Hightower and the Patriots, who have had a mostly brilliant offseason, with the lingering Malcolm Butler situation notwithstanding. His 17.5 quarterback disruptions (2.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, eight pressures) during the regular season were the fourth most on the team and almost three times more than any linebacker.
Kyle Van Noy believes Hightower deserves every penny in the deal. They have been uncharacteristically aggressive over the past week, signing Stephon Gilmore to a monster deal and making a trade for Brandin Cooks.