12 free agents for the New England Patriots to decide whether or not to re-sign

Defending champs have plenty of key players set to hit the market

LB Dont’a Hightower: A 2012 first-round pick, Hightower could get the franchise tag. He turns 27 next month and has been one of the team’s rocks in the front seven, even amidst plenty of roster shuffling. Hightower has had his own durability concerns, having played 11 games over the past three seasons, but he is consistently one of the team’s leaders in tackles and QB hits. The Pats have two other linebackers heading to free agency and while there are intriguing options on the roster, none with the steady abilities of Hightower. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
LB Dont’a Hightower: A 2012 first-round pick, Hightower could get the franchise tag. He turns 27 next month and has been one of the team’s rocks in the front seven, even amidst plenty of roster shuffling. Hightower has had his own durability concerns, having played 11 games over the past three seasons, but he is consistently one of the team’s leaders in tackles and QB hits. The Pats have two other linebackers heading to free agency and while there are intriguing options on the roster, none with the steady abilities of Hightower. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) — Gregory Payan