Patriots Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is one of the top free agents who will become available on Thursday. He was a key part of the Patriots’ victories in Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI, and made his first pro-bowl roster this year. He was a captain on the Patriots, where captains are really taken seriously. Here’s a couple organizations where he may land after free agency.
New England Patriots
The likeliest outcome for Hightower is that he stays in New England. There are rumors that he has had positive conversations with the Patriots, and though he will get to test the market, the Patriots may match any offer. The Patriots have a large amount of cap space available to sign him. Both sides would be pretty happy with this outcome, especially if the Patriots don’t ask for less than market value.
If Hightower takes the money, the Titans are a good fit. Hightower is from Lewisburg, Tennessee, which is about an hour away from Nashville. The Titans have a subpar defense and a need at Inside Linebacker. Titans General Manager Jon Robinson was the Patriots’ Director of College Scouting when Hightower was drafted. Likely he supported the Patriots’ move to trade up for Hightower in the 2012 draft. Finally, the Titans have the cap space to offer a great deal.
The Browns have an enormous amount of cap space. They have the ability to make a big splash in free agency, and they may want to put Hightower next to Jamie Collins. The Browns have lots of needs on both sides of the ball. Cleveland may want to recreate the Patriots’ defense as much as possible, which may include signing even more former Patriots players (such as Alan Branch, Chris Long, and Jabaal Sheard). The big downside for Hightower is that the franchise has no promise of winning, which may be tough for someone who played for the Patriots after playing college ball at Alabama.
The Raiders would be an interesting fit for Hightower. The team has over $40 million in cap space, and is a rising contender in the AFC. If he wants to remain on a contender, but wants to get market value, this may be his best option. For the Raiders, it would mean a scary linebacker unit including Hightower, Bruce Irvin, and Khalil Mack.
The Redskins could surprise and make a bid for Hightower. They ave enough open cap space to entice him to come to Washington. Their defense needs improvements, and they specifically could use an Inside Linebacker. Washington often makes big splashes in free agency. Though it’s unlikely, Washington is a good dark horse candidate.