Now that the dust has settled on the 2016 New England Patriots season, the team enters the 2017 free agency period with a myriad of question marks regarding their roster.
Who are the going to keep around? Who will they let walk? Which players are most important to their success next season?
Let’s take a look at the top impending free agents that the Patriots should absolutely re-sign to give them the best chance at repeating as Super Bowl champions.
Here we go!
#1. Dont’a Hightower, LB
An absolute no brainer and one that should get done one way or another. The Patriots will almost certainly franchise Hightower to get the ball rolling on a contract extension with the talented linebacker, whose versatility and leadership have been hallmarks of his time with the Patriots.
Coming out of the University of Alabama, Hightower was a first round draft pick of the Patriots back in 2012 and has made an impact since his first game, recovering a fumble for a touchdown on opening day in the 2012 season against the Tennessee Titans.
Since then, he’s been a part of two Super Bowl championships and has played pivotal roles in both of them, tackling Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line late in the fourth quarter to set up Malcolm Butler‘s interception one play later in Super Bowl XLIX, and just this past Sunday strip sacked Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to set up New England’s second touchdown of the game and to keep their comeback hopes alive.
Hightower is expected to command a high value. He reportedly turned down a $10 million per year extension earlier this season and talks between him and the club have been non existent since. Still, Hightower has expressed interest in staying in New England and the Patriots would be wise to keep their defensive captain. Expect for him to resign.