2017 NFL free agents: Should Dolphins spend big on Dont’a Hightower?

Dont'a Hightower is considered the best free agent linebacker available. (Getty Images)

Dont’a Hightower is considered the best free agent linebacker available. (Getty Images)

Given the mammoth contract he’s expected to command and the uncertainty over whether New England wants to pay that much to keep him, linebacker Dont’a Hightower figures to be one of the most coveted free agents available next month.

Hightower, who turns 27 soon, is coming off a year in which he was selected for the Pro Bowl and won the Super Bowl. He appears to be hitting his prime, and the Dolphins could be a suitor considering their most pressing need this offseason is linebacker.

Miami is high on Kiko Alonso, who played middle linebacker last year, and is likely to resign him (he’s a restricted free agent). However, Alonso could shift to outside linebacker if the team acquires someone of Hightower’s abilities. That combination should significantly improve the Dolphins’ run defense, which was 30th in the NFL.

Hightower had 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a safety, two passes defensed and a forced fumble last season. Pro Football Focus ranked him the 12th-best linebacker in the league last year, and Alonso was Miami’s highest-ranked player at No. 48.

Based on players with comparable production and age, including Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, Spotrac estimates Hightower’s market value contract at four years, $40.7 million.

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