Report: Hightower, Chung and Cannon plan to return to Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots are expected to have a busy offseason improving a roster that had major weaknesses on both sides of the ball during a disappointing 2020 NFL season.
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One way the Patriots will get better is by having players who opted out of last season due to COVID-19 return to the team. The Pats had a league-high eight players opt out in 2020.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday that linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and right tackle Marcus Cannon all plan on returning to New England for the 2021 campaign.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said something similar to our own Tom E. Curran on a February episode of NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Talk Podcast.
“From my understanding they’ll all be back,” McCourty said. “B. Bolden, High, Chung. So I can’t wait. Those are my guys – (Marcus) Cannon. I just can’t wait to be back around those guys. Even outside of football, seeing them every day, seeing their nice faces.”
In addition to Hightower, Chung and Cannon, the other five Patriots players who opted out last season were running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Dan Vitale, wide receiver Marqise Lee, tight end Matt LaCosse and guard Najee Toran,
The Patriots have a few ways to make major improvements to the roster before next season. One of them is free agency, where they are projected to have a little more than $62 million in salary cap space, which is the third-highest total in the league, per OverTheCap. Another area is the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Patriots could have as many as 10 picks once compensatory selections become official.