Dont’a Hightower should return to the Patriots


Dont’a Hightower

The New England Patriots have a fleet of young linebackers ready to make their mark in the NFL. However, they can’t finish one of their legendary performers at the post.

Dont’a Hightower is a three-time Super Bowl champion and future Patriots Hall of Famer, but he’s also a free agent. At 32, Hightower is on the wane of his career and seems to be considering whether or not he wants to continue playing football.

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Hightower’s compromised athleticism seemed to be on display at times in 2021, and his failed attempt to chase Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen in the Patriots’ 47-17 playoff loss was like a microcosm of what was suffering from the New England Linebacking Corps in 2021.

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While it’s obvious the Patriots needed to get younger and quicker at linebacker, there’s still some belief that New England wants Hightower back. His experience and knowledge are obviously always appreciated. Perhaps that’s why CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan predicted that Hightower would eventually return to the Patriots.

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“Dont’a Hightower has been a key part of multiple Super Bowl titles for the Patriots, but the veteran linebacker remains in the free agent market,” Sullivan wrote. “The 32-year-old is still considering his future in the NFL, but if he decides to pursue his career, a move back to New England is the logical path.”

A June report by Jeff Howe of The Athletic implied the Patriots wanted Hightower back. Of course, they can’t wait forever. Maybe the team saves him a spot on the roster while he makes up his mind to retire.

What will they do if Hightower decides to hang up his cleats?

Trey Flowers could be an option if Hightower doesn’t return

At this point in Hightower’s career, if he returns, he might be best suited for a role where he’s asked to rush the passer more than cover. The Patriots may have already laid out that plan for him, and whether he wants to accept that role could be the decision he is considering.

It’s a purely speculative take, but if true – or at least in the ballpark – the backup plan for Hightower could be another former Patriot. Trey Flowers is also still a free agent.

After an injury-filled stint with the Detroit Lions, Flowers is still without a team, with multiple outlets calling New England his best landing spot. Flowers has struggled to stay healthy, missing 14 games over the past two seasons. Still, he could be an inexpensive and potentially fantastic signing if he can get back to his 2018 form when he had 7.5 sacks for the Patriots.

The movement of young people from the patriots to LB is underway

The Patriots’ current linebacker squad is filled with youngsters. Josh Uche (23), Cameron McGrone (22), Mack Wilson (24), Ja’Whuan Bentley (25), Ronnie Perkins (22), Raekwon McMillan (26) and Anfernee Jennings (25) are all 26 years of age or younger. There’s a chance that every guy will make the team to some degree, and it also seems unlikely that any of the players in this group won’t appear in 2022.

Perhaps Hightower’s return would add the perfect seasoning of an experienced veteran with a winning pedigree.

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