Teams convinced Dont'a Hightower will return to Pats

Dont'a Hightower remains the biggest fish in the free-agent pond, but don't expect the linebacker to change area codes.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Hightower visited the New York Jets this weekend, spent time with the Tennessee Titans and is expected to visit the Steelers on Tuesday. Rapoport notes both the Titans and Jets, however, were left convinced Hightower would re-sign with the Patriots.

The 2012 first-round pick produced two of the biggest plays in the Patriots' last two Super Bowl wins and is the last remaining veteran leader on New England's defense. He sits No. 4 on Around The NFL's Top 101 free agents list.

A return to the Patriots always made the most sense, but Bill Belichick was not going to bid against himself to keep an inside linebacker whose value would be less on almost every other team.

Rapoport reported during the 2016 season that Hightower rejected a contract of $10 million annually -- a similar deal linebacker Jamie Collins declined before getting traded.

If Hightower indeed returns to New England, as we expect, it will be interesting to see if he got more than the initial offer, or decided staying home is the best career move, even if it meant leaving a few dollars on the table.