Evidently the best way to a linebacker’s heart is not through his belly.
The Jets’ cupcake-themed pitch to free-agent Dont’a Hightower during his visit to the team facility earlier this week wasn’t enough to lure the play-maker away from the Evil Empire.
Hightower flirted with the Jets and Steelers before his agents announced that the Pro Bowl linebacker agreed to terms on a four-year, $43.5 million deal with $19 million in guarantees to return to the Patriots on Wednesday.
Mike Maccagnan & Co. held out hope that Hightower, one of the pillars on Bill Belichick’s defense, would migrate south to help their star-crossed team, but it wasn’t meant to be.
While Belichick has been a tour de force in the past week with a flurry of trades and big-money free-agent signings, it makes little sense for the Jets to employ a similar strategy given the state of their team. The Jets have wisely remained relatively quiet during free agency as they begin their rebuilding phase in earnest in the third year of this new regime.
Hightower would have been a terrific addition for Todd Bowles, but created a pressure point for the organization.
Would they have released veteran linebacker David Harris, whose options to sign elsewhere would have shrunk a week into the start of free agency?
The Jets, after all, would have cleared $6.5 million in salary cap space by cutting Harris. It would have been a classless way to treat a life-long Jet.
Another school of thought: Hightower and the 33-year-old Harris could have remained fresh throughout the season with fewer snaps. That would have been a financially unsound move (and illogical on every level), but it’s moot now.
A faction on One Jets Drive always felt that Hightower was destined to return to New England. He left Florham Park on Monday for Pittsburgh. The Steelers reportedly pulled their offer off the table when Hightower left their facility without agreeing to a deal. They didn’t want to be used as leverage to drive up the price for the Patriots.
Hightower would have been the free-agent headliner for the Jets, who did the right thing by bringing him into the facility to gauge his interest. Playing up his 27th birthday was also a nice touch even if it didn’t really have a tangible impact on his ultimate decision.
Although there are legitimate concerns about Hightower’s knees, there’s little doubt that the 2016 Pro Bowler would have been a quality addition for Bowles’ team. Truth to be told, I would have lost some respect for a player who chose to leave the best team in the league for a rebuilding outfit (in the same division, no less).
The Jets have barely made a ripple in free agency, which isn’t the end of the world. They’re exploring which veteran quarterback to add to the mix. No amount of manufactured hype will whip Woody Johnson’s paying customers into a frenzy, but that’s okay.
A rebuild is rarely exciting.
Now they’re scouring the clearance rack for bargains during the second week of free agency. Former Vikings fullback Zach Line and Bucs defensive lineman Howard Jones will be visiting.
Hopefully Hightower left some cupcakes for them.
Published at Wed, 15 Mar 2017 17:45:28 +0000