The New England Patriots have been one of the busiest teams during free agency, Stephon Gilmore to a monster deal and for Brandin Cooks. One of their best homegrown defensive players is still on the open market, though, and he’s been making the rounds while looking for a new deal.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower visited the New York Jets on Sunday, and according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jets pulled out all the stops to get him to join his division rivals.
“They sent his mother Jets merchandise, they brought him out to dinner last night and had cupcakes given to him on his birthday,” Schefter said on Monday’s edition of NFL Insiders (per NFL.com ’s transcription). “They had ‘Happy Birthday Dont’a Hightower’ on all the screens inside the Jets training facility.”
That’s some nice effort that the Jets put into their pitch, but it should be noted that Hightower didn’t actually sign with them, so it’s not great that news of their flourishes has already leaked. As CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora noted, he still plans to visit with the Steelers this week.
Steelers will bring LB Dont'a Hightower in for a visit. Has already met with Jets and Titans. Pats want him back too— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2017
The Jets could really use a player like Hightower, but news of their pitch leaking is especially disheartening given that the industry assumption currently remains that he’ll head back to New England on a deal that pays around $10 million per year, as La Canfora reported on Sunday.
With Dont'a Hightower there's a very strong perception among other teams he's going back to Pats for $10M/yr. The ties to NE run deep...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2017
Perhaps the Jets or someone else give him significantly more than 10/yr but barring that the industry assumption is Hightower returns to NE— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2017
The Jets putting this kind of personalized effort into their free agent pitches could be the kind of thing that pays off with a different player somewhere down the line, though, so not all is lost, even if Hightower returns to New England.