Well this isn't the news everyone was waiting for. The tag for linebackers, which encompasses both edge rushers and those whose roles are more similar to Hightower, is expected to be over $14.7 million this year.

After a day in which five players received the franchise tag across the National Football League, the question in New England was obvious: What about the Patriots and linebacker Dont'a Hightower? Hightower is big (6'3, 265-pounds), and very athletic for a man of his size.

Hightower is the glue of the Patriots front seven and they frankly have no one on the roster at this point that is capable of replacing him. The first is that Patriots head coach/general manager Bill Belichick essentially tabbed Hightower as his next defensive cornerstone in the Patriots locker room.

The Super Bowl hero could still return to the Patriots but ESPN reported that Hightower is intent on testing the free-agent market.

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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.

While the Patriots are justifiably concerned with Hightower's injury history, he's missed time in every season but 2013, they don't have another player of his caliber at the position. He recorded 89 tackles and six sacks.

The team offered Hightower a a deal that would have paid him $10 million last season, but he turned it down.

The deadline to apply the franchise tag to a player is at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

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