n The Patriots’ active off-season continued with the re-signing of linebacker Don’t’a Hightower to a contract that averages more than $10 million per year. A lucrative signing because Hightower isn’t an every-down player – he played 67.8 percent of the snaps in the regular season/playoffs. Hightower has no interceptions and only three fumble recoveries in 67 career regular season games.
n More Patriots: Bill Belichick always deserves the benefit of the doubt (see his five titles), but why is he keen on giving cornerback Malcolm Butler away? Logan Ryan, last year’s No. 2 corner, signed with Tennessee. The Patriots added Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore … but Butler is better and everybody knows a team needs two top-flight corners to be competitive. Butler has six interceptions and 31 pass break-ups in two years as a starter. New Orleans would win this trade if it gets Butler for a first-round pick.
n Tennessee’s run defense was second-best in the NFL last year – and it could be better this year. The Titans already have outstanding defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who can also kick outside on passing downs, and they signed Denver nose tackle Sylvester Williams last week. Williams, 28, has missed only one game in three years as a starter, totaling 15 tackles for lost yardage.
n Pittsburgh is obviously counting on the draft to fill its holes at outside linebacker, cornerback and back-up tailback. The Steelers’ only addition this month has been receiver Justin Hunter, who will be on his fourth team in three years and had 10 catches (although four touchdowns) in 2016. The Steelers extended receiver Antonio Brown and tagged tailback Le’Veon Bell.
n Oakland quarterback Derek Carr has the cache to be a recruiter for his team and he’s not afraid to use it. Carr campaigned for tight end Jared Cook and returner/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to sign with the Raiders and they listened.
n Nobody wants to sign New Orleans’ free agents. Literally. When the NFL released its list of unrestricted free agents March 9, the Saints had 18 players. A week-and-a-half into the signing season, no Saints player has been signed by another team (although Kasim Edebali was a non-tendered player and signed with Denver) and only running back Travaris Cadet and defensive tackle Nick Fairley have been re-signed. New Orleans has signed receiver/returner Ted Ginn (Carolina), guard Larry Warford (Detroit) and linebacker A.J. Klein (Carolina).
n Dallas is at the other end of the spectrum. The Cowboys have lost nine players in free agency, including starting strong safety Barry Church (Jaguars), defensive end Jack Crawford (Atlanta), guard Ron Leary (Denver), cornerback Brandon Carr (Baltimore) and defensive tackle Terrell McClain (Washington).
n The second wave of signings included a nice pick-up by the Rams, who added veteran pass rusher Connor Barwin. The 30-year old Barwin was released by Philadelphia earlier this month and has 50 1/2 sacks in 113 games. He will be reunited with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips – the two were together in Houston (2011-12).
n Jaguars fans, where have you heard this before? San Francisco general manager John Lynch said new fullback Kyle Juszczyk, “is not a fullback, he’s an OW … offensive weapon.” Back in 2013, when the Jaguars drafted Denard Robinson, they termed him an OW. Juszczyk, who made a pre-draft visit to the Jaguars (also in 2013), has only seven rushing attempts in 64 games. He received $9.75 million guaranteed from the 49ers.
n Minnesota cornerback Terence Newman keeps on keeping on. He re-signed with the Vikings on Wednesday and will play a 15th season. At 38, he’s the oldest cornerback to play in the NFL since Darrell Green played in 2002 at age 42. Newman’s totals – 205 games (197 starts), 41 interceptions and two Pro Bowls. Newman has won one playoff game in eight appearances.
Free agents are still available to be signed by the Jaguars and other teams. Here are the top remaining players based on how many snaps they played in 2016:
Player Pos. 2016 team Snaps
Jahri Evans G New Orleans 1,137
Evans will be 34 in August but has 169 starts of experience.
T.J. McDonald S L.A. Rams 1,069
Impacting market: January guilty plea for reckless driving involving drugs or alcohol.
Chris Chester G Atlanta 1,039
Now 34, Chester has started every game for six consecutive years.
Austin Pasztor G/T Cleveland 1,020
A 16-game starter last year, lost starting job during Browns’ offensive line rebuild.
Bradley McDougald S Tampa Bay 1,012
Had 91 tackles and 10 pass break-ups last year.