Patriots Veteran Linebacker Lingers on Re-Signing

New England Patriots

Getty Images Patriots LB has yet to decide to return

The New England Patriots veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower remains a free agent into late April. Hightower not deciding to return to the Patriots only puts the team in a pickle. With the 2022 NFL draft nearing on April 28, Hightower’s potential return could greatly affect the Patriots’ draft board.

The final stages of free agency are nearing and it seems as so if no teams have shown any interest in the aging linebacker other than New England. Hightower remains unsure of his return to the Patriots, according to Mike D’Abate of Sports Illustrated.

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While the Patriots have made several offseason inquiries (S Jabril Peppers, CB Malcolm Butler, etc.) they’ve also suffered great losses ( CB J.C. Jackson, G Ted Karras, etc.) as they attempt to rebuild this roster for the 2022 season. However, it seems strange not to sign back a team captain from the previous year. While his numbers dwindled last season, he’s proven in the past he can be an asset on that Patriots’ defense. 

While teams have shown a  lack of interest in Hightower, this may shift towards the end of the draft. Many NFL teams may attempt to look over and really narrow down their rosters which may open up a spot for an established veteran presence.

Where’s Hightower Head These Days?

It’s abundantly clear that Hightowers is still deciding on whether he wants to play or not in his 11th season. There’s no doubt, the Patriots organization and fans would miss Hightower’s presence in a Patriots uniform. He’s been an essential part of that defense since he was drafted in 2012 from Alabama University. 

While Hightower has proven not to be the most electrifying and flashy LB, he’s proven to be efficient and effective on the field. Hightower has proven he can be a legitimate leader and help the Patriots win games. Not to mention, the level of respect he’s earned amongst the players and coaches within that organization. 

While the three-time Super Bowl Champion is still deciding about his future in the NFL, it’s only fair to acknowledge reasons he may step away. The Alabama product has accomplished so much with his time throughout the NFL. Many rumors have surfaced within the last season, about the possibility of Hightower retiring.

According to The Athletic, Hightower previously responded to the rumors and doubts surrounding his return. 

“The opt-out was for [2020] and that was [2020],” Hightower told reporters in the summer of 2021. “All the rumors about retirement and stuff, y’all had me thinking somebody was trying to kick me out. But I did what I did for what I felt was better for my family. Obviously, I feel a little different from the situation I’m in now. But if I had to do it again, if I had to go back and do it I would absolutely do it again. It was literally just for the season. I wasn’t planning one, two steps ahead or anything like that.”

Hightower’s Possible Return After the Draft

While many would love to see Hightower return to the Patriots sooner. It may make more sense financially for the Patriots to sign him after May 2. Then, Hightower wouldn’t count against the league’s compensatory draft picks formula, due to the latest NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement

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