New England Patriots Trade
In the most Belichick trade ever, the Patriots send veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower to the Browns in exchange for tight end David Njoku. At first glance, this is a huge win for the Browns. Cleveland gets a veteran linebacker who knows how to win and will be able to provide leadership for the young defense. However, when taking a deeper dive, this makes so much sense for the Patriots.
Dont’a Hightower is 30 years old this season and is in the last year of his contract, where he is set to have a cap hit of just under $12.5 million. The Patriots are cap-strapped, so this trade would allow them to shed around $9 million of cap space, as Njoku is only set to have a cap hit around $3 million this season.
Despite spending two 3rd round picks on tight ends, the Patriots are still in desperate need of a solid starting tight end. The ceiling is insanely high for Njoku, and considering the Patriots aren’t ( or at least shouldn’t) be in win-now mode, they can take their time with building their offense around Njoku’s insane athleticism.
I want to make it completely clear, Dont’a Hightower is a better overall football player than David Njoku. However, I don’t see how or why the Patriots would be interested in keeping Hightower long term. Signing a 31-year-old linebacker to a deal giving him $10 million a year doesn’t seem like something Belichick will do next offseason, so trading him now makes the most sense.
For the Browns, they’d get one season of a player who could help provide leadership in the linebacker room and would allow them to not just play a bunch of rookies and guys with little to no experience. Plus the compensation pick the team will get when Hightower signs elsewhere in free agency will be pretty nice.