Patriots Dont’A Hightower Loses Major Payday vs. Dolphins

Getty Dont'a Hightower

Toward the end of every NFL season, there is a bit of a mad dash for players trying to reach individual–and sometimes team–goals in an effort to earn incentives.

The New England PatriotsKendrick Bourne hit two big incentives in the Week 17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bourne eclipsed the 50 reception and 700 receiving yards mark which earned him an additional $500,000. Unfortunately, Patriots veteran and three-time Super Bowl winner Dont’a Hightower won’t get a similar opportunity in the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins. He has been ruled out due to a knee ailment.

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Hightower’s contract has incentives based on the percentage of the team’s snaps he plays. He has currently played in 67% of the snaps this season. Hightower needs to play in 65% to earn a bonus worth $375,000. If he plays in 70% of the snaps, he’d get $625,000. If he’s able to play in 75 or 80- percent of the team’s snaps, he’d earn an additional $875,000 and $1 million for his availability, per Mark Schofield of USA Today.

Because he’s out of action, the snap count is going to continue to rise while his percentage decreases. While he’s currently at 67%, Hightower cannot afford to miss the entire game and still qualify for the incentives bonus.

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Hightower Was a Lock For at Least One Incentive

Even in something of a limited role, Hightower was almost a total cinch to earn at least the 67% snap requirement. The severity of Hightower’s injury is unknown, but with the Patriots still holding some hope of winning the AFC East, the decision to sit Hightower suggests he is at least impaired enough to miss a pretty big game.

Hightower opted out of the 2021 season due to concerns about COVID-19. He was one of eight Patriots to make that decision and one of three that has remained with the team; Matt LaCosse and Brandon Bolden are the other two.

As it is, Hightower’s next game will likely be in the postseason when the Patriots take on an as-yet-determined opponent.

Dont’a Hightower Has Been Mostly Durable During His Career

Missing a game or two is nothing new for Hightower.

Hightower has been mostly healthy throughout his career–which he has spent with the Patriots for its entirety. The only season–besides the 2021 campaign–when Hightower missed more than four games was 2017 when he played in just 5 contests.

Throughout his career, and not counting 2021, Hightower has missed a total of 27 games in 9 seasons. He won’t win any ironman awards for that ratio, but he’s still available far more than he’s not.

The hope throughout Patriots Nation is for Hightower to return when the playoffs begin next week so that he can help New England advance. If he is unavailable, expect to see Ja’Whuan Bentley get the majority of the snaps at middle linebacker with Jahlani Tavai spelling him.

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