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Report: Hightower Returning to Patriots

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Star linebacker Dont'a Hightower is returning to the New England Patriots, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

He said the team has agreed to sign him to a 4-year, $43.5 million deal that includes $19 million in guaranteed money.

The news comes just a day after Hightower visited the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hightower has helped the New England Patriots win a pair of Super Bowls in his five seasons with the team and was considered the best inside linebacker on the open market.

He has 372 tackles and 17 sacks since New England selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He provided one of the signature moments during New England's furious second-half rally against Atlanta in the Super Bowl, forcing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan's fumble in the fourth quarter, helping swing the momentum to the Patriots for good on their way to a comeback 34-28 overtime victory.

Hightower's return is the latest move in a busy off-season for the Pats, who have already signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore and traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

The team announced another signing Tuesday in free agent running back Rex Burkhead.

Terms were not disclosed. Burkhead, 26, comes from Cincinnati, where he has spent all four years of his NFL career since being drafted in the sixth round out of Nebraska in 2013.

He appeared in all 16 regular-season games each of the past two seasons. He rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns for the Bengals in 2016. He also has 27 special teams tackles in his career, including consecutive 10-plus tackle seasons with 11 in 2015 and 12 in 2016

Burkhead is expected to be used primarily on special teams for the Patriots and could be a replacement for Brandon Bolden, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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