The franchise tag deadline arrives on Wednesday, and a notable option might be set to hit free agency. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the New England Patriots will not use their franchise tag on linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
The San Francisco 49ers need to add significant depth at linebacker, and Hightower would certainly be a big addition. The 49ers are moving to a 4-3 base defense, but after NaVorro Bowman, their linebackers are question marks. Ray-Ray Armstrong signed a two-year extension last winter, but we do not know what the new coaching staff and front office think of him. They could potentially play Ahmad Brooks at one of the OLB positions, with Aaron Lynch (or a draft pick or free agent addition) at the Leo, but a younger Hightower would bring more to the table.
It is worth noting Hightower has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout his career. He played 16 games in 2013, but since then has played in 12, 12, and 13 games. The injuries are not huge season-enders, but they are enough to give us at least a little bit of pause in considering the huge payday Hightower could be looking at next week.