New England Patriots: Hightower, Chung and Cannon are back for 2021...for now

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On Friday, Ian Rapport of NFL Network reported that Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon plan on being back in 2021.  All three players opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. 


Photo courtesy of NESN / via Twitter

All three are said to be physically in shape and should be able to help the Patriots.  Providing that Bill Belichick wants those three players back next season.

The Patriots will have plenty of cap space to work with next season, but Belichick could look to free up more by moving on from these players. 


Hightower has a cap hit of $12.4 million, Cannon $9.6 million and Chung $5.1 million.  It’s not unlikely that after missing an entire NFL season that these veterans are released.  New England doesn’t have a lot of depth at linebacker, and Hightower would immediately add a veteran presence on and off the field. 


The Patriots will be hoping for their younger players to take the next step whether they keep Hightower or not.  Belichick has a history of getting his players to be on the roster at his price, could look to restructure the veteran.

One name to watch for in free agency, if the Patriots want to add around Hightower and the younger players is Bills Matt Milano.  He isn’t as physical as you’d like at linebacker, but he defends well in against running backs.  Milano could help in pass coverage and help take some reps on the field to allow Hightower to stay fresher this season.  The former Boston College linebacker is an under the radar Belichick-type move. 


Chung will be coming back and joining a secondary where he’ll be reunited with Devon McCourty.  He will also potentially play along side safeties Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger for the first time.  If the Patriots elect to move on from Chung, they have some depth and Phillips has emerged with his playing time last season. 


The Patriots need more help on the offensive line heading into free agency.  New England will need to figure out what they are going to do with guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews.  The emergence of Michael Onwenu could make Cannon expendable.  Jeff Howe of The Athletic expects the Patriots to ask Cannon to restructure, but if he refuses he will likely become a cap casualty. 


The Patriots had a league-high eight players opt-out of the 2020 season.  The first season without Tom Brady at the helm under center didn’t quite go as planned.  With the third highest amount of cap space ($62 million) to spend this offseason, Belichick could restock the cupboards quick.  The team has holes up and down the roster, the number one need is who’ll play quarterback.  Everything else they do is trivial until that glaring hole is filled on the roster. 



Follow Chris on Twitter @chrishenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: New England Patriots: Hightower, Chung and Cannon are back for 2021...for now
New England Patriots: Hightower, Chung and Cannon are back for 2021...for now
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