Dont'a Hightower, Two Other Key Patriots Set To Return

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon won't be following in the footsteps of Tom Brady. Instead, all three will return to the New England Patriots and not look elsewhere in free agency, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

This is good news for the Patriots because they will be getting back their potential opt-out players and will remain near the top of the NFL in available salary cap space. So after a down year, the Patriots are primed to add some key additions in free agency.

The first step in that process is bringing back key players -- and Hightower, Chung and Cannon fit that description. Now all the Patriots need is a quarterback to replace Brady, who won a Super Bowl in his first season with Tampa Bay.

Returning Patriots QB Cam Newton was viewed as more of a stopgap between Brady and whoever comes next. Newton may not actually return, but at least three others will. For the once-proud Patriots, that's a start.