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Dont’a Hightower spurns Jets’ cupcakes, re-signs with the Patriots

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The All-Pro linebacker is staying in New England.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dont’a Hightower, who emerged as the backbone of the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, is getting rewarded for his effort. The fifth-year linebacker re-signed with the Patriots, Adam Schefter reported Wednesday.

Hightower's agency confirmed the news shortly after and said that the 27-year-old signed a four-year, $43.5 million deal, with $19 million guaranteed:

Both the Jets and Steelers had interest in Hightower. The Jets were apparently the most interested, going all out to woo the All-Pro linebacker with a special birthday message, gifts for his mom and cupcakes.

Cupcakes are great, but a realistic chance to win another Super Bowl is better. And you can always buy more cupcakes.

The University of Alabama product is coming off his finest season as a pro. He was named to his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams this winter after helping lead the New England Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl title. He made 65 tackles while inheriting Jerod Mayo’s role as the captain of the team’s defense.

He’s never known a season that’s ended before the AFC Championship. In five seasons with the powerful tackler on the roster, the Patriots have gone 62-18 in the regular season and never won fewer than 12 games in a year. He’s got two Super Bowl rings with the franchise.

Hightower emerged as a free agency priority for the team throughout 2016. New England traded away its top pass rusher, Chandler Jones, and its top tackler, Jamie Collins, in order to help free up the salary cap space needed to keep the inside linebacker in the fold.

The Patriots picked up the option from Hightower’s rookie contract to retain him last fall, paying him more than $7.7 million for 2016 — more than doubling his career earnings from his first four seasons with the team. They declined to use the franchise tag on Hightower and risked losing him to the open market, but New England managed to keep its budding star. His dynamic season set him up for a big payday for 2017, and now he’ll be one of the league’s highest-paid linebackers.

With defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in the fold and several members of last year’s top-ranked defense returning to Foxborough, Hightower could be in store for an even better season in 2017.