The New England Patriots got solid production from linebacker Dont’a Hightower again in 2016. Find out how he turned that into a new deal.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is one of the few defensive leaders the New England Patriots have kept recently. Hightower was the team’s first-round draft pick five years ago, and he decided his best move was to return for a run at a third Super Bowl ring.
New England head coach Bill Belichick has made final decisions on whether or not to keep many key players over the years. This time around, the ball was in Hightower’s court as an unrestricted free agent, and he wanted to continue being part of something special.
Hightower is not coming off a career year like he enjoyed in 2014. But last season was still a very good one for the 27-year-old who is just entering his prime.
With Jerod Mayo retiring after 2015, the Pats needed Hightower to take over for him in the middle. They also needed another captain who thrived under defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Hightower came through by delivering in both roles for the team.
The only negative really last year was that Hightower continued to miss time due to injuries. He has managed to play all 16 regular-season games just once in his NFL career (2013). In 2016, he finished with 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 13 games.
Then in the playoffs, Hightower again took his game to another level and was truly a difference maker. In Super Bowl 51, his strip sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter that led to a fumble recovery enabled the Patriots to come back and win.
With big plays like that, it is certainly understandable why Belichick has treated Hightower better than former defensive standouts like Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. And that feeling is mutual with Hightower re-signing in New England for four more years.