Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Patriots have informed LB Dont’a Hightower’s representatives that he will be franchised ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
According to Schefter, Hightower is now expected to test the open market starting next week.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, considering that the franchise tag would have cost the Patriots $14.129 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported earlier in the day that Hightower is targeting $11 million per year in a long-term contract and it’s possible that his asking price could increase as free agency draws closer.
Hightower could still give the Patriots the opportunity to match any offer he receives on the open market, but he is in line to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of all the available cap space this offseason.
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.