No franchise tag for Dont'a Hightower

The franchise tag number for linebackers was set for just under $15 million this year.

The New England Patriots have a lot of cap space and linebacker Dont'a Hightower is a key part of their championship defense, so giving the franchise tag to Hightower seemed to be an easy move.

The Super Bowl hero could still return to the Patriots but ESPN reported that Hightower is intent on testing the free-agent market. He forced a Matt Ryan fumble that sparked a comeback for the Patriots en route to their overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons for their fifth title.

Hightower was a first-time captain in 2016.

And with 1:06 remaining in Super Bowl XLIX, he tackled running back Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line on the play before cornerback Malcolm Butler's dramatic interception to help the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks.

Recently, the Patriots traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals last offseason.

It's still possible the Patriots and Hightower can reach a long-term contract before March 9.

Though the New England Patriots will have over $62,481,093 in available salary cap space, they could be without yet another inside linebacker heading into the 2017 National Football League season. He recorded 89 tackles and six sacks.

The transition tag, which is an alternative to the franchise tag, would have essentially made Hightower a restricted free agent.

The team offered Hightower a a deal that would have paid him $10 million last season, but he turned it down. They've been clearing cap space to re-sign the man that sparked a comeback for the ages on February 5.

New England had the cap space to tag Hightower, but are for whatever reason choosing not to.

  • Angelo Rivera