The transition tag would give the Patriots the right of first refusal on any contract the player receives from another team as a free agent. Otherwise, they would make the one-year tender salary.
The benefit is that the team can allow the market to set his value while having the ability to still retain him. It also comes with a lower salary than the franchise tag.
The downside, however, is that you allow the player and another team to negotiate the terms of his contract. In the past, teams have tried to structure the contract in a way to make it tough for the player’s current team to match or include an opt-out clause the Jaguars did when they signed C Alex Mack to an offer sheet a few years ago.
Some have wondered if Hightower could be a candidate for the franchise tag, while others have said that this is unlikely, considering that it would cost the Patriots $14.129 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season.
Hightower, 26, is a former first-round pick of the Patriots back in 2012. He’s played out his rookie contract before the Patriots picked up his fifth-year option last year.
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.
We have him featured in our Top 100 – 2017 Free Agents list.