Dont'a Hightower Expected to Hit the Free Agent Market

Looking to save cap space heading into next season the Patriots will reportedly choose not to use the franchise tag on linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Hightower is "expected to test the market", Schefter reported. He forced a Matt Ryan fumble that sparked a comeback for the Patriots en route to their overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons for their fifth title.

Hightower, 26, was a Patriots captain and Pro Bowl selection in 2016.

Though the New England Patriots will have over $62,481,093 in available salary cap space, they could be without yet another inside linebacker heading into the 2017 National Football League season.

Given that price, it's not too surprising that the Patriots have opted to go a different way when it comes to Hightower.

Recently, the Patriots traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals last offseason.

Hightower and his agents are free to continue negotiations with the Patriots between now and March 9, when the bidding will be open to every team. He was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 when he made 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hits and a safety against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals.

That was likely one of the biggest reasons why the team has decided not to place the tag on him. But for the time being, they don't appear willing to commit $15 million in cap space to anyone other than quarterback Tom Brady.

As for what Hightower could be getting on the open market, just look to Jamie Collins' deal with the Browns that has him making $12.5 million per season. It's all in the hands of the Patriots if they want him back or not.

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