The Jets were uncomfortable with the result of Hightower's physical, ESPN.com reports. The Jets initially offered the 27-year-old linebacker a five-year, $62.5 million contract, but it seems they dropped out of the running after getting the results of his physical. Hightower subsequently re-signed with the Patriots -- who surely have a good feel for his injury risk -- on a four-year, $43.5 million contract that includes $19 million guaranteed. He did miss at least three games in each of the last three seasons, though never more than four in a single campaign. His shoulder and knee are the mostly likely causes of the Jets' concern, but neither was a big enough problem to prevent the ever-cautious Patriots from offering Hightower a hefty sum.
The Patriots have re-signed Hightower to a four-year, $43.5 million deal that includes $19 million in guaranteed money, the Boston Herald reports. Hightower, who the Patriots drafted 25th overall in 2012, dabbled in free agency, visiting with both the Jets and Steelers, but the general consensus was that the 27-year-old linebacker would end up staying with New England, barring a dazzling financial offer. After seeing the Patriots boldly part ways with key defenders Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins in 2016, it seemed logical for the team to retain Hightower, who has been New England's defensive signal-caller over the past two seasons, per the Boston Globe. Now back in the fold for the next four seasons, he'll remain entrenched as the team's starting middle linebacker.
Hightower is slated to visit the Steelers. The versatile linebacker remains one of the most-high profile players available in free agency, but at this stage Hightower continues to weigh his options, after having previously visited the Jets. Of course, a return to the Patriots is a distinct possibility, but the 27-year-old is understandably of a mind to see what the open market has to offer. In 13 games for New England in 2016, Hightower logged 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks, solid enough numbers, but the fact that he's been entrusted in the past with the team's defensive play-calling duties, when healthy, underscores the 2012 first-rounder's true value to the franchise.
The Patriots do not plan to use the franchise tag option in order to retain the services of Hightower in 2017, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Per the report, Hightower is now expected to test the free agent market, though we suspect that the Patriots still will look to work out a long-term deal with the versatile linebacker before then. The team boldly parted ways with both Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins in 2016, further cementing Hightower's status as a key defender for New England, especially in light of the fact that he has been entrusted with the team's defensive play-calling duties when healthy. Hightower, who turns 27 on March 12, finished up this past season with 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 13 regular season games, numbers that put him on the IDP radar in deeper formats.
Hightower won't need offseason surgery on his knee or shoulder, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports. Hightower dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout the 2016 season but still played in 13 regular season games and four playoff games. It's an encouraging sign that he won't need surgery and he should be a full participant in offseason practices.