Hightower is expected to be sidelined six to seven months following offseason surgery on his right shoulder, the Boston Herald reported.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport originally reported Hightower's labrum procedure in February. The linebacker was on the injury report since Week 14 with a shoulder injury.
Hightower was a key to the Patriots' run defense in the middle and tied for second on the team with six sacks. The third-year player finished second in Pro Football Focus' rating for inside linebackers, despite only playing 12 games this season. His play was crucial to the Pats winning the championship.
Hightower missed two games in Week 5 and 6 due to a knee injury and played down the stretch with the shoulder injury. He also missed Week 14 and sat out Week 17, a meaningless game for the Pats.