After being listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower was ruled out for the regular-season finale, the team announced Saturday.
Hightower’s absence won’t just be costly for the Patriots, it’ll also be costly to Hightower’s wallet, too.
Because Hightower opted out of the 2020 season, his contract structure for that year – which is the final year of his four-year deal, was moved to 2021. As part of that his contract for this season, which has a base salary of $7.85 million, Hightower could earn up to $2 million in bonuses.
Half of the possible bonus money Hightower could earn is tied to the number of snaps he plays. If Hightower plays 65 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps this season, he would earn a $375,000 bonus, according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. If he played 70 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps, he would earn a $625,000 bonus. If he played 75 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps, he would earn a $875,000 bonus. And if he played 80 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snape, he would earn a $1 million bonus.
But Hightower will likely say goodbye to any hope he had of receiving those bonuses by missing Sunday’s game. Through the first 17 weeks of the season, Hightower’s played 62.71 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps per ProFootballReference. As there’s no way for him to increase his snap total, Hightower will fall short of the number needed to obtain a $375,000 bonus.
Hightower appeared to be on track to at least reach the 65 percent threshold for much of the season. But he dropped below that mark when he played just 14 snaps against the Jaguars in Week 17, which was by far his lowest snap total of the season.
The other $1 million Hightower can receive in bonuses doesn’t look like it will happen, either. Hightower would receive $500,000 if he was named to the Pro Bowl and another $500,000 if he was named first-team All-Pro. Hightower wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl roster in December and his 64-tackle season likely won’t get him named to either of the All-Pro teams.
Kicker Nick Folk also has some bonus money on the line. He receives $250,000 if he’s top 10 in field goals made and another $250,000 if he’s top seven in field goals made, according to Corry. Folk is tied for the league lead in field goals this season with 35 and is six field goals ahead of the two players tied for seventh. He’s seven field goals ahead of the three players tied for ninth in field goals made, so it appears Folk will receive $500,000 there.
Folk will receive another $250,000 if he makes 90 percent or more of his field goal attempts. He’s made 92.11 percent of his field goals this season, putting him in a good spot to earn that bonus. However, if he has a rough day against the Dolphins, he could miss his chance at getting it. If Folk only has one field goal attempt on Sunday and misses it, his conversion rate will drop to 89.7 percent.
Folk could receive another $125,000 if he’s named to either of the All-Pro teams.
Receiver Kendrick Bourne already got his bonus money, but he can earn more in Week 18. By catching five passes for 76 yards against the Jaguars in Week 17, Bourne received a $250,000 bonus for recording 50 receptions on the season (52) and a $250,000 bonus for reaching 700 receiving yards this season (776).
If Bourne records eight catches on Sunday, he’ll earn another $250,000 bonus 60-catch season. He can also earn another $250,000 by recording 24 receiving yards, which would get him to the 800-yard mark, which is another bonus.
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