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Dont’a Hightower: I’d like to think LB trades mean Pats want me

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots reacts during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Linebacker Dont’a Hightower won’t be taking a trip to the White House, but the far more interesting question of his offseason is whether he will be leaving New England.

Hightower is set for unrestricted free agency next month as long as he doesn’t reach agreement on a new deal with the Patriots and the team doesn’t use the franchise tag to keep him off the open market. The Patriots were headed toward having three linebackers in that situation, but they traded Chandler Jones before the 2016 season and Jamie Collins during it to leave Hightower as the last man standing.

During a visit to ESPN on Wednesday, Hightower was asked is he thought that those deals boded well for his chances of sticking around New England.

“I’d like to think, but, again, guys can get put out and traded or whatever,” Hightower said, via “I’m just trying to go along with the ride right now and enjoy that Super Bowl victory. I’m sure in a couple weeks all that free agency stuff will pick up, and I’ll handle that whenever that comes.”

The Browns gave Collins a four-year deal worth $50 million and the franchise tag would pay Hightower in the neighborhood of $15 million for the 2017 season. Those numbers will likely play a role in talks between the linebacker and the Patriots over the next month as we move closer to finding out if Hightower will miss more than a White House visit with the team in 2017.