Ouch…the Patriots got even worse news for the 2020 NFL season when they learned that LB Dont’a Hightower, one of the most important members of the Patriots defense has decided to opt-out of the upcoming season. He joins FB Danny Vitale, OL Marcus Cannon, and OL Najee Toran who opted out yesterday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was first to report this latest development as the league and players are struggling to find the safest way to protect the players and their families. Hightower’s wife gave birth to their first child on July 16.
With the departures, this spring of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins at the linebacker position, the Patriots in 2020 were in the position of relying on the veteran presence of Hightower even more. This is a big blow for the defense as Hightower normally calls all of the defensive signals in the huddle.
Bill Belichick has referred to Hightower as “Mr. February” alluding to the linebacker’s penchant for making huge plays at key points in big games, frequently in the Super Bowl.
Hightower was in the final year of his contract that was to pay him $8 million this season.
Among the others who opted out was FB Danny Vitale who was supposed to soften the blow of the retirement of James Develin this spring. Vitale is a smaller but more athletic player who had intriguing possibilities in the Patriots offense.
Marcus Cannon, the Patriots starting right tackle also opted out. We heard back in January that he wasn’t returning, possibly opting for retirement as he moved his family back to Texas in the offseason, but perhaps the lure of his big contract made him pause. But he too decided to opt-out of the season. That leaves a big hole in the offensive line where the team has question marks as to who replaces him. They may shop for a veteran now.
Toran was expected to compete for a backup role on the inside of the offensive line.
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Training Camp