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.

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