With this in mind, Cole says that Collins’ new deal could impact the Patriots’ ability to retain Hightower, who will be among the best available free agents in this year’s free agent market.
Cole adds that New England’s decision to trade Collins to the Browns is a result of them valuing Hightower more, which is why he’s likely to target even more money than Collins got this offseason.
Of course, the Patriots could always use their franchise tag on Hightower next year. This would cost the Pats $14.129 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season and would likely be used as the annual salary for his next contract if they use it on him.
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.
We’ll have more regarding Hightower as the news is available.