Free agent Dont'a Hightower picks Patriots over Jets

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Hightower, selected for his first Pro Bowl last season, also had a big play in the Patriots' previous Super Bowl win two years ago.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower had the opportunity to leave the New England Patriots in free agency.

The Jets reportedly offered Hightower over $12 million per year, but it seems like Hightower valued winning a little more than money.

Drafted by the New England Patriots, he's been arguably their most important defensive player over the past five years. Hightower knows he got the deal that the market would bear for him. The linebacker's visit concluded on Monday, and now he's off to Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers.

Hightower's re-signing provides an end to an interesting free-agent saga. His average salary of $10.875m per season puts Hightower second behind Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly among inside linebackers and just ahead of Bobby Wagner and Navarro Bowman. Reasonable minds may differ on what that price is; personally I think the Jets are better off for not signing Hightower at the price he was rumored to be asking for. But after visiting the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, the former Alabama All-American has made a decision to stay with the Patriots. The New York Jets have also met with him the day befor, e while the Tennessee Titans tried to host him but ultimately failed to set up a meeting.

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It involved birthday confections and visits with multiple teams, but the Dont'a Hightower saga is apparently over.

Hightower spent his five National Football League seasons with the Patriots after being selected out of Alabama with the 25 pick in the 2012 draft. The Jets weren't ever a serious contender, but the Steelers were more intriguing.

Hightower wanted to return, and the Patriots reciprocated that feeling.

The veteran linebacker has agreed to a four-year contract to remain with the Patriots after briefly testing the free-agent market, his agents at SportsTrust Advisors‏ announced Wednesday.

Hightower appeared in 14 games with the Patriots last season, accounting for 65 tackles with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He was New England's first-round pick back in 2012 and has been a starter his entire career.