Hightower deal likely hinges on fourth-year guarantee

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Hightower deal likely hinges on fourth-year guarantee

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower is one of 14 unsigned first-round draft picks.

Word is his deal hinges on a guaranteed fourth year. That's where things get complicated.

Start with New England's first selection, Chandler Jones, taken at 21 overall. Jones signed for four years but, unlike the 21st overall pick in 2011 (Phil Taylor), there is no guaranteed money for Jones in that fourth year.

Meanwhile, Taylor got a combo of guaranteed money and a roster bonus for the final year of his deal. He'll be paid if he doesn't make the team in his fourth year. Jones won't.

Agents normally insist on their players getting at least what the player drafted the year before received. Jones took a step back. Which means the next group of players -- picks 22 through 25 -- are trying to get the financial train back on the tracks.

The most important domino ahead of Hightower is Cleveland's Brandon Weeden. The 28-year old quarterback likely doesn't care what Chandler Jones got; he wants guaranteed money. Especially given his age, position and the fact the Browns have practically anointed him as their starter.

And the three unsigned players behind him -- Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, and Hightower -- won't make a move until Weeden's deal gets done.

So continues the waiting game.

Patriots training camp however, starting July 25, waits for no one. Hightower is well within his rights to hold out.

But New England can be stubborn. Ask Wes Welker.

Terrance Knighton doing everything he can to prep for training camp

Terrance Knighton doing everything he can to prep for training camp

Mike Giardi joined by Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry to discuss Terrance Knighton's performance with the Patriots. Also, a look at rookie Joe Thuney and Marcus Cannon's future.

Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury

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Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury

FOXBORO – There was some offensive line attrition this morning at the first full-contact practice of training camp.

Most notably, guard Jonathan Cooper left the field on a cart.

Cooper, acquired from the Cardinals in the Chandler Jones trade, went down during a drill when the offensive line was firing off and hitting bags and carrying the blocks out. It appeared to be his right foot that was afflicted. He was down for a few minutes and the team had to move the drill away from him as he stayed down. Quarterback Tom Brady went over to check on Cooper before Cooper was helped gingerly to a cart alongside trainer Jim Whalen and was carted away.

Ian Rapoport from NFL Media reported after Cooper went down that the former first-rounder is battling plantar fascia, a painful foot ailment.

That’s what led to him needing to be held off, according to Rap.

Meanwhile, center Bryan Stork kinda just slipped out of practice. He was first noticed missing when he did not take part in 1-on-1s which came early in practice. He was out there for the beginning of practice so whether he was hurt, sent off for whacking people or had a dentist’s appointment isn’t known.

Bill Belichick wasn’t available after practice. Otherwise we’d have the full scoop.

We’ll keep an eye on that for Sunday.

Running back D.J. Foster and guard Shaq Mason meanwhile didn’t take part in 1-on-1s and retired to a lower field for some conditioning. Guard Josh Kline’s workload is also a bit limited while guard Tre Jackson and tackle Sebastian Vollmer are on the PUP list still.

The Patriots have practice Sunday and are in the stadium for a night practice on Monday before getting Tuesday off.

Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran