With reports circulating yesterday that the New England Patriots would not place their franchise tag on veteran linebacker Dont'a Hightower, the team backed up the claims today as they decided not to tag any player before the deadline this afternoon. 

Multiple sites including ESPN reported that the Pats had informed Hightower yesterday afternoon of their decision to not use the franchise tag to retain his services.

That does not mean that the team does not want the dominant linebacker back, it just means that now, to retain him, they must work out a new deal in free agency.

The Pats, who rarely use the franchise tag, would have had to pay Hightower more than $14 million next season had they tagged him. That high salary would have payed him more than most if not all of the other middle linebackers in the league, as the franchise tag for the linebacker position isn't based on just inside or outside guys. The fact that both types of backers are considered when setting the tag rate means that the rate is priced a bit high for inside guys. The salary accounts more of the outside backers, who are typically paid more because of the sack and pass rush numbers.

Hightower, who has been a key cog in the Pats' defense for a few years now and has made game-changing plays in each of the team's last two Super Bowl wins, will likely be looking for a multi-year deal in the $12-$13 million range.


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