The New England Patriots have informed linebacker Dont'a Hightower that they won't use their franchise tag on him, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday. 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. The first is that Patriots head coach/general manager Bill Belichick essentially tabbed Hightower as his next defensive cornerstone in the Patriots locker room. In nearly as surprising a move, the Patriots are not going to franchise tag Hightower, who is now expected to test the open market next week. He didn't participate as he and the Patriots were preparing for Super Bowl LI to be played the week after the Pro Bowl.
In the 2016 season he accumulated 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
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. But the Patriots rarely seem affected by losing good players, like when they traded linebacker Jamie Collins last season and it didn't bother them at all. He recorded 89 tackles and six sacks.
While the team won't be putting the tag on him, that doesn't mean he can't return to the team. That would pay him more than $11 million in 2017. Now, if they sign him, he could make even more.
Given that price, it's not too surprising that the Patriots have opted to go a different way when it comes to Hightower.
There are surely plenty of people in New England who hope that things play out the same way this offseason.
City announces new flights to Chicago and Denver
United said the service will operate on a daily, year-round basis, except for certain dates in January and February. The outbound flight will leave Windsor Locks at 6:30 a.m., with an arrival at San Francisco at 9:46 a.m.