2017 NFL Free Agency: Dont’a Hightower Contract Projection

Dont’a Hightower Contract | 2017 NFL Free Agent | New England Patriots

HT: 6-3 WT: 265 Age: 26 Seasons: 5
Status: UFA

New England Patriots Cap Space (Top 51): $59.4M (Spotrac)

Dont’a Hightower Scouting Report

Positives
Great size. Hightower’s a versatile defender who Bill Belichick used all over the field for the Super Bowl Champs. He plays inside linebacker, outside linebacker, rushes the passer and is a great blitzer. Probably the best pass-rushing middle linebacker in the league. Very good against the run. Instincts. Gets downhill and brings the wood. Sure tackler. His lack of explosiveness limits him in pass coverage some, but he’s far from a liability. Leader. Winner. Tough (has shown he’ll play through injuries when needed).

Negatives
Has missed games in each of his five seasons. Was in a great situation in New England. Team other than New England could have concerns there. As for the Patriots, are they willing to enter a bidding war for a veteran player who has an injury history?

Dont’a Hightower Statistics

  • Best season: 89 tackles, 6 sacks, 9 TFL, FF, 2 PD, 12 QB Hits
  • 2-year average before deal (AVG): 63 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 0.5 FF, 0.5 FR, 2 PD, 6.5 QBH

Dont’a Hightower Player Comparables

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

  • Contract: 5 year, $61.8M; $12.4M APY, $34.4M GTD, $27M FG (2015)
  • 2-year AVG: 154.5 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 0.5 FF, 0.5 FR, 9 PD, 2.5 INT, 3 QBH
  • 2017 salary cap adjustment (CAP): 5 year, $72.5M; $14.5M APY, $31.7M FG

Jamie Collins, Cleveland Browns

  • Contract: 4 year, $50M; $12.5M APY, $26.4M FG (2016)
  • 2-year AVG: 102 tackles, 4.75 sacks, 8 TFL, 4.5 FF, 1.5 FR, 4.5 PD, 1.5 INT, 7 QBH
  • 2017 salary cap adjustment (CAP): 4 year, $53.8M; $13.5 APY, $28.4M FG

Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

  • Contract: 4 years, $43M; $10.75M APY, $21.98M GTD, $19.98M FG (2015)
  • 2-year AVG: 109.5 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 4.5 PD, 0.5 FR, 0.5 INT, 12 QBH
  • 2017 CAP: 4 years, $50.1M; $12.5M APY, $23.3M FG

Dont’a Hightower Leverage

Kuechly probably had the least amount of leverage. He was two years (not including potential franchise tags) away from free agency. He was the best player of the four, but by signing him early, Carolina got at a discounted price. Wagner had one-year left on his rookie contract. As a second-round pick, his path to free agency wasn’t hindered by the fifth-year option that restricted both Kuechly and Hightower’s for an extra season.

Collins had a lot of leverage over the Browns in negotiations because the team traded a draft pick for him during the 2016 season. That sunk cost certainly influenced the team’s willingness to meet Collins’ demands; they wouldn’t want to get ten games out of such an early draft choice. He could have played out the season and left, so Cleveland didn’t want to play that game of chicken.

Hightower, unlike the three other players, has the luxury of multiple bidders. His team is going to be bringing Luke Kuechly’s contract (not shown above: five years, $61.8M – $12.4M APY) to the table too, and they may just be able to surpass it. If he’s negotiating with New England, his agent is definitely showing the team Jamie Collins contract since he was the linebacker they decided to trade away. He doesn’t have the statistical production to compare to the other four, but he does have two Super Bowl rings and unrestricted free agency.

Best Alternative to Long-Term Agreement

None. There will be a long-term agreement.

Dont’a Hightower Reservation Price

With another large bump in the salary cap (which is great), Hightower could very become the highest paid inside linebacker in the NFL (Collins plays outside linebacker in Cleveland). Hightower shouldn’t even entertain a conversation under $10 million annually.

Projection: 5 years, $62.5M; $12.4M AVG, $23.275M FG

donta-hightower-contract-structure

*Contract information from Over The Cap, Spotrac, Pro Football Talk, and/or other sources.

**Contract structures are based on 2016 team’s tendencies.

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