One of the more significant free agent dominos fell this afternoon, as linebacker Dont’a Hightower re-signed with the New England Patriots.
The deal is a four-year contract worth $43.5 million with $19 million guaranteed, which will pay him an average of just under $11 million per season. Hightower had drawn a lot of interest from the Jets as well as the Steelers, but all along it seemed like the Patriots were the favorites to bring back the inside linebacker. It’s a good move for both sides, and it takes the top inside linebacker off the board in free agency.
This impacts the Colts in two main ways. The first one is obvious: it means that they won’t be able to sign Hightower. There were many people who suggested that the Colts should pursue the linebacker, since he would be a massive upgrade at the position and would really help the team. The Colts didn’t seem to share those same feelings, however, at least not enough to make a serious pursuit. We did not hear anything about the Colts actually being interested, just speculation about how perhaps they should have been. But now, Hightower is off the market.
This also impacts the Colts in a second way, however: it could get the linebacker position moving a bit in free agency. Some positions went really fast, but the inside linebacker market seemed to be slow in developing. It’s very possible that a big reason for that is teams and players wanted to wait and see what happened with Hightower - where he wound up and how much money he made. That would give a better baseline of where some other players might wind up and how much they should reasonably expect to get. The Colts reportedly had Kevin Minter in for a visit yesterday, and there are other good inside linebackers still out there too (like Zach Brown, for example). The Colts would be wise to target an inside linebacker this year in free agency, and Minter and Brown would both be solid additions. It’s possible that now that Hightower has signed with the Patriots, the inside linebacker market will pick up and we might see some action with these guys - hopefully with one of those signings happening in Indianapolis.