Field Yates of ESPN reports that the Patriots have placed veteran LB Dont’a Hightower and DT Alan Branch on the PUP list for the start of training camp.
The Patriots can activate either player whenever they want, so this isn’t all that big of a concern for their 2017 status.
Hightower, 27, is a former first-round pick of the Patriots back in 2012. He played out his rookie contract before the Patriots picked up his fifth-year option last year and tested the open market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Ultimately, Hightower returned to the Patriots on a four-year, $35.5 million contract that included $19 million guaranteed.
In 2016, Hightower appeared in 13 games for the Patriots and recorded 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two pass defenses and a safety. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 13 linebacker out of 87 qualifying players.
Branch, 31, is a former second-round pick of the Cardinals back in 2007. He spent four years in Arizona before brief stints with the Seahawks and Bills.
The Patriots elected to sign him to a two-year, $4.3 million contract in March of 2015. Branch re-signed with the Patriots and received a two-year, $8.45-million contract.
In 2016, Branch has appeared in all 16 games for New England and recorded 49 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and three pass defenses. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 25 interior defender out of 127 qualifying players.