A fourth member of the Patriots is opting out of playing the 2020 season and this one will leave a big hole in their defense.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that linebacker Dont'a Hightower will not be suiting up this year. He joins tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran as Patriots players who have opted not to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hightower, who became a father for the first time this month, was set to make a base salary of $8 million this season. He will receive a $150,000 stipend and his contract will toll to the 2021 season.
It’s a big loss for the Patriots, who already saw Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins depart as free agents this offseason. Hightower had 71 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown for New England last season. Brandon Copeland, Ja'whaun Bentley, Shilique Calhoun, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are among the linebackers still on hand for the Patriots.