Jerod Mayo has played in 12 games for the Patriots since 2013. (NFL Game Rewind)
The New England Patriots brought in linebacker Rolando McClain for a free-agent visit this week. And while the 25-year-old has since returned to the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $4 million, New England’s off-the-ball interest could be telling at this stage in the game.
According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots offered McClain a one-year, $4 million contract. But the 12-game starter in 2014 left without signing, and ultimately agreed with the Cowboys on a comparably structured deal Wednesday.
McClain now is back in a situation he enjoyed a comeback year in, after spending the 2013 season out of football. That familiarity could have very well factored into his decision, as he should remain in the mix as Dallas’ middle linebacker, allowing the injured starter he replaced, Sean Lee, to slide over to the weak side.
In New England, McClain’s spot on the depth chart would have been far less certain in the long-term. Yet, on the other side, the Patriots’ off-line linebacker spots are also uncertain at this time.
Shane Vereen escaped for 11 catches in Super Bowl XLIX. (NFL Game Rewind)
Tom Brady. Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski. Malcolm Butler.
One received MVP, two others received 15 passes for over 170 yards and two touchdowns, and another received what would have been the game-winning touchdown. But the New England Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks’ was composed of many.
Here is look at seven other Patriots who proved to be constant parts of it, even if they were not alone.
Dont’a Hightower is slated for offseason shoulder surgery. (NFL Game Rewind)
New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum, according Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.
Playing “mostly with one arm,” as Rapoport detailed, Hightower played an integral part in New England’s Super Bowl victory Sunday night.
After a season in which Rob Gronkowski amassed 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games, the New England Patriots tight end has been named a unanimous first-team NFL All-Pro by The Associated Press.
Gronkowski received all 50 votes at the position, standing with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt as the lone two players do so. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski is one of two Patriots to make first-team All-Pro in 2014, with cornerback Darrelle Revis also garnering 42 votes. Continue reading
Dont’a Hightower’s third year of development has left an imprint. (NFL Game Rewind)
There probably isn’t a place for Dont’a Hightower on an NFL awards list. There probably isn’t a position for him behind the tackles of Lavonte David, the sacks of Justin Houston, or the coverage of DeAndre Levy in the Pro Bowl.
But the 6-foot-4, 270-pound linebacker is in a place where he has a position; one where he’s filling the run lanes, rushing the passer, and closing the coverage from one down to the next. And while that may not set him atop one particular achievement category, it sets him in the midst of the 9-2 New England Patriots’ defense.
It is there that he’s become his own.
Hightower has become an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker. He’s become a communicator, a chaser, a hitter, a gap-blitzer and an edge-setter in a multiple defense. He’s become what head coach Bill Belichick saw in him at No. 25 overall in the 2012 draft.
It just took three years for the rest of the league to see it.