Latest Updates (Mar. 13)
4:25 p.m.: The Jets concluded their visit with free agent LB Dont'a Hightower on Monday afternoon.
11:10 a.m.: After visiting the Jets, Hightower is scheduled to visit the Steelers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Previous Reports (Mar. 12)
While the New York Jets have quietly gone about their rebuilding this offseason, they've watched their biggest rivals get even better. But now the Jets are trying to put a stop to the New England Patriots' offseason roll.
The Jets are interested in signing Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, according to a league source, and they brought him in for a free-agent visit on Sunday, even as the Patriots are trying to lure him back. According to a CBS Sports report, they are "leading the pack" for his services, though several people around the NFL believed he was using the Jets for leverage and will eventually land back with the Super Bowl champs.
Regardless, the Jets appear to have a shot at the 27-year-old inside linebacker who is one of the top remaining free agents. If they were to lure the Pro Bowler away from New England, it could mean the end of David Harris' tenure in New York. Harris, 33, is due to make $6.5 million in the final year of his contract, and the Jets could clear that amount off their books in salary cap space with his release.
Hightower would definitely be an upgrade over Harris, and given his age, he could form a long-running duo in the middle of the Jets' defense with Darron Lee, the inside linebacker they drafted in the first round last year. Hightower played in 13 games last season and had 2 1/2 sacks, a safety and a fumble recovery. He also played in all three playoff games and had a sack and a forced fumble in the Patriots' Super Bowl win over Atlanta.
A former first-round pick (2012, 25th overall), the 6-foot-3, 265 pounder had has 17 sacks in 67 regular season games in his five-year NFL career.
If the Jets can pull this off, it would be their biggest signing so far. After a quiet start to free agency, they signed left tackle Kelvin Beachum to a three-year, $24 million contract and kicker Chandler Catanzaro on Friday. They have also re-signed several of their own players, including right tackle Ben Ijalana, special teams ace Josh Martin and long-snapper Tanner Purdum.