Patriots news & rumors: Hightower’s excitement; N’Keal Harry still a goner

New England Patriots Dont'a Hightower(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
New England Patriots Dont'a Hightower(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots revamped defense centers on the return of veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower and he’s all for it.

After opting out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, the Alabama product and three-time Super Bowl champion is back in the mix, which instantly makes the Patriots front-seven that much better going into 2021.

With key signings like Matt Judon and the return of Kyle Van Noy, as well as younger players like Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins, Christian Barmore, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich, the importance of Hightower looms even larger given his familiarity with the defense, his experience playing under Bill Belichick and his mentorship to those young players.

New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is a major piece of the defense

In all, he is excited to help the 2021 version of the Patriots defense strive, and it should certainly do that with him on the field.

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"“I think we have the right pieces,” Hightower said following the team’s in-stadium walkthrough, via  “The pieces have been set up for us and it’s up to us to go out, execute and build the chemistry.  I’m excited to be back playing with the guys I’ve been playing with.  The linebacker group has a lot of energy and chemistry.”"

Hightower’s excitement and energy so far through training camp is certainly a great positive given rumors about him possibly being a surprise cut or even traded due to his current contract.

Sometimes, however, there is greater value to a player than a contract and Belichick sees that in Hightower.  The man makes big plays when it counts and there is no doubt his presence in that defensive front-seven both reinforces the physicality and versatility Belichick loves in his defense.

NFL rumors: Patriots could trade N’Keal Harry before season starts

One of the surprises so far through training camp is the performance of New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry.

After publicly requesting a trade in July, Harry has really put a bullseye on his back as far as his performance on the field.  Ideally, the Patriots would love for him to increase his trade value if indeed they decide to trade him.

Despite the trade request, Bill Belichick has appeared supportive of the third-year wide receiver and Harry himself appears content on staying in New England.  But is it all for show?

Well, on the field he has been showing glimpses of the player he could be, but according to Paul Perillo of, that doesn’t necessarily take him off the trading block.

"“N’Keal Harry is having a nice camp but the feeling here is he gets dealt before the season starts,” Perillo wrote on the website."

As projected, Perillo has Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Gunner Olszewski rounding out his top four on the Patriots wide receiver depth chart.  That would open up an opportunity for a player like Isaiah Zuber, Kristian Wilkerson or even seventh round draft pick Tre Nixon.  That is also no ruling out the Patriots signing or trading for another veteran receiver.

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In all, unless Harry really shows he’s worthy of being a top 3 receiver in the Patriots offense during the three preseason games, he’s still a goner which is really too bad given how high he was drafted.  But, it also further demostrates that no matter how high you are drafted in the NFL, if you don’t take advantage of opportunities you can still find yourself fighting for a job.