The Jets have mostly been quiet so far in free agency, but the team has its eyes on one of the few high-profile players still available. And that player would be coming from Gang Green’s heated rival, too.
The Jets are interested in former Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower, according to a source. New England is also interested in re-signing Hightower.
While the Jets are stripping their team of veterans as part of their rebuild, a player of Hightower’s ability and age (he turned 27 on Sunday) would be around long enough to contribute when the team tried to legitimately compete again.
One interesting wrinkle to the Jets’ interest in Hightower: should they sign the linebacker, that would presumably make veteran David Harris expendable. Harris, 33, has been with Gang Green since 2007 but the team could save $6.5 million against the cap by releasing him. Though he’s been a stalwart of the defense for years, Harris’ abilities are declining and he is a liability against the pass. Hightower, who made the Pro Bowl last season, would certainly be an upgrade.
Should the Jets sign Hightower, they could set up an inside linebacker partnership between him and 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee that could last for years to come.
Hightower played in 13 regular season games and all three playoff games for the Patriots last season. The Alabama product was selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2012 draft and has started 64 games for the Patriots since.