New York Jets try to lure top free agent with cupcakes

By Josh King, Veuer

After ending their 2016 season with a disappointing 5-11 record, the New York Jets are trying a strange new tactic to lure free agent talent.

In an attempt to add youth to their defense, they invited New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower to visit the Big Apple on Sunday. Their secret weapon was cupcakes.

It just so happened to be Hightower's birthday, and it appears the Jets wanted him to know that they remembered. They sent his mom team gear, plastered "Happy Birthday Dont'a Hightower" on all the TV screens in their facility, took him out to a nice dinner, and of course, there's the icing on the cake.

All that schmoozing may not be enough to bring the high-powered linebacker to their team, as numerous reports suggest he will return to the rival Patriots.

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Top NFL free agents of 2017
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Top NFL free agents of 2017

Le'Veon Bell, RB*

Age: 25

Previous team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Key 2016 stats: 261 carries, 1,268 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, seven touchdowns, 88.3 PFF grade

One thing to know: The Steelers tagged Bell early in the offseason and some think they may still try to agree to a long-term deal for one of the league's most versatile running backs.

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Kirk Cousins, QB*

Age: 28

Previous team: Washington Redskins

Key 2016 stats: 4,917 yards, 67% completion, 25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 85.9 PFF grade

One thing to know: Cousins was also hit with the franchise tag, and he and the Redskins are reportedly still talking about long-term contracts. But according to MMQB's Albert Breer, the 'Skins don't seem sold on Cousins as the QB of the future.

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Melvin Ingram, LB*

Age: 27

Previous team: San Diego Chargers

Key 2016 stats: Eight sacks, four forced fumbles, 88.1 PFF grade

One thing to know: The Chargers have said they also want to come to long-term deal with Melvin Ingram. Ingram was Pro Football Focus' sixth-highest graded edge defender in 2016.

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kawann Short, DT*

Age: 28

Previous team: Carolina Panthers

Key 2016 stats: Six sacks, one forced fumble, 87.7 PFF grade

One thing to know: Despite a dropping from 11 sacks in 2015 to six in 2016, Short still figures to be a big part of a Panthers' pass rush that ranked fifth in sacks.

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Chandler Jones, DE*

Age: 27

Previous team: Arizona Cardinals

Key 2016 stats: 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 87.4 PFF grade

One thing to know: Despite fairly gaudy stats, Jones said last year was a learning curve for him and he expects to be better in a second season with Arizona.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE*

Age: 28

Previous team: New York Giants

Key 2016 stats: Seven sacks, three forced fumbles, one touchdown, eight fingers, 86.2 PFF grade

One thing to know: The Giants hit JPP with the franchise tag, despite Pierre-Paul saying he no longer wants to play on one-year deals and prove he can play with a damaged hand. The two sides are likely working on a long-term deal.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Trumaine Johnson, CB*

Age: 27

Previous team: Los Angeles Rams

Key 2016 stats: Eight pass defenses, two interceptions, 81.0 PFF grade

One thing to know: According to ESPN, Johnson is the first cornerback to be tagged in back-to-back years since Charles Woodson in 2004 and 2005.

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Dont'a Hightower, LB

Age: 26

Previous team: New England Patriots

Key 2016 stats: 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, 85.7 PFF grade

One thing to know: Though it doesn't always show up in stats, Hightower's play was reportedly one of the reasons the Patriots traded Jamie Collins last year. Keeping Hightower may be expensive.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Brandon Williams, NT

Age: 28

Previous team: Baltimore Ravens

Key 2016 stats: 51 tackles, one sack, 75.9 PFF grade

One thing to know: Williams topped ESPN's list of 150 free agents. The former Division II lineman has become one of the top nose tackles in the NFL.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Alson Jeffery, WR

Age: 27

Previous team: Chicago Bears

Key 2016 stats: 52 caches, 821 yards, two touchdowns, 77.6 PFF grade

One thing to know: Jeffery has struggled with injuries, inconsistent quarterback play, and a PED suspension in 2016. But if healthy, with a capable quarterback, he could be dynamic wide receiver.

(Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Calais Campbell, DT

Age: 30

Previous team: Arizona Cardinals

Key 2016 stats: Eight sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, 90.4 PFF grade

One thing to know: The Cardinals are reportedly unlikely to re-sign Campbell, PFF's second highest-graded interior defender. The Broncos are rumored to be interested in him.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kevin Zeitler, G

Age: 26

Previous team: Cincinnati Bengals

Key 2016 stats: 87.1 PFF grade

One thing to know: CBS's Joel Corry, a former NFL agent, said he expects Zeitler to "break the bank" for teams pursuing him.

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

A.J. Bouye, CB

Age: 25

Previous team: Houston Texans

Key 2016 stats: One sack, one interception, 16 pass defenses, 90.9 PFF grade

One thing to know: Bouye went from fourth on the Texans' cornerback depth chart to one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. He'll likely receive a giant contract this offseason.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stephon Gilmore, CB

Age: 26

Previous team: Buffalo Bills

Key 2016 stats: Five interceptions, 73.2 PFF grade

One thing to know: As Gilmore's PFF grade suggests, he had some coverage issues, despite his high interception count. He may still get typical top-cornerback pay because of his ball-hawking ways and physical gifts.

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

T.J. Lang, G

Age: 29

Previous team: Green Bay Packers

Key 2016 stats: 87.0 PFF Grade

One thing to know: According to Yahoo's Charles Robinson, Lang is expected to make $8-10 million per season on his next contract.

(Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Martellus Bennett, TE

Age: 29

Previous team: New England Patriots

Key 2016 stats: 55 catches, 701 receiving yards, seven touchdowns, 79.8 PFF grade

One thing to know: Bennett played a crucial role for the Patriots, stepping up when Rob Gronkowski went down with a back injury. Will the Patriots spend big to keep Bennett as insurance for oft-injured Gronk?

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Dontari Poe, NT

Age: 26

Previous team: Kansas City Chiefs

Key 2016 stats: 55.8 PFF grade

One thing to know: Poe is remarkably athletic for a 3456-lb lineman. Any team that signs him will also get a big man who get into the end zone, too!

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor, WR

Age: 27

Previous team: Cleveland Browns

Key 2016 stats: 77 catches, 1,007 receiving yards, four touchdowns, 78.6 PFF grade

One thing to know: The quarterback-turned-wide-receiver had the best season of his career in 2016. The Browns have said they'd like to keep him, but no one is irreplaceable on a one-win team.

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Tony Jefferson, S

Age: 25

Previous team: Arizona Cardinals

Key 2016 stats: 96 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, 88.6 PFF grade

One thing to know: NFL Network says Jefferson outplayed the more heralded Tyrann Mathieu last season, proving to be a hard-hitter who can defend the run and pass. He's likely to out-price the Cardinals.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Andrew Whitworth, OT

Age: 35

Previous team: Cincinnati Bengals

Key 2016 stats: 91.3 PFF grade

One thing to know: After posting PFF's second highest grade for an offensive tackle, Whitworth said he's keeping all of his options open, but would like to join a Super Bowl contender next season.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

DeSean Jackson, WR

Age: 30

Previous team: Washington Redskins

Key 2016 stats: 56 catches, 1,005 receiving yards, four touchdowns, 77.0 PFF grade

One thing to know: Though he's injury-prone, Jackson proved last season that he still has burst and playmaking ability, even at 30 years old. There's been chatter about Jackson having a reunion with the Eagles this offseason.

(Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Larry Warford, G

Age: 25

Previous team: Detroit Lions

Key 2016 stats: 81.5 PFF grade

One thing to know: Warford is expected to earn a big contract, and the Lions already preparing for his departure, according to the Detroit Free Press.

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Johnathan Hankins, DT

Age: 24

Previous team: New York Giants

Key 2016 stats: 47.1 PFF grade

One thing to know: After signing Damon Harrison to a big contract last summer, Hankins may be leaving the Giants this offseason.

(Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

Ricky Wagner, OT

Age: 27

Previous team: Baltimore Ravens

Key 2016 stats: 84.5 PFF grade

One thing to know: According to NFL.com's Mike Garafolo, Wagner is expected to "blow the lid" off the right tackle market and generate a lot of interest.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Jabaal Sheard, DE

Age: 27

Previous team: New England Patriots

Key 2016 stats: Five sacks, 79.6 PFF grade

One thing to know: After signing with the Patriots on a two-year deal in 2015, Sheard may have played himself into a bigger deal elsewhere.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan, CB

Age: 26

Previous team: New England Patriots

Key 2016 stats: 92 tackles, one forced fumble, two interceptions, 83.5 PFF grade

One thing to know: The Patriots may have to let go of Ryan with his counterpart, Malcolm Butler, also set for a pay day.

(Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

T.J. McDonald, S

Age: 26

Previous team: Los Angeles Rams

Key 2016 stats: One sack, two interceptions, 75.3 PFF grade

One thing to know: According to reports, McDonald is likely to leave the Rams in free agency. NFL.com describes him as a "tone-setting" presence in the secondary with his big hits.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Brandon Marshall, WR **signed with NYG on 3/8

Age: 32

Previous team: New York Jets

Key 2016 stats: 59 catches, 788 receiving yards, three touchdowns, 71.7 PFF grade

One thing to know: Though he had a poor 2016 season, he's just one year removed from a 1,500-yard, 14-touchdown season in 2105. With a good quarterback, Marshall can still be an elite receiver.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Riley Reiff, OT

Age: 28

Previous team: Detroit Lions

Key 2016 stats: 67.5 PFF grade

One thing to know: Reiff posted a decent season switching from left tackle to right tackle. ESPN suggests he may leave the Lions if a suitor allows him to play left tackle.

(Photo by Scott Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Eddie Lacy, RB

Age: 26

Previous team: Green Bay Packers

Key 2016 stats: 71 carries, 306 rushing yards, 5.1 yards per carry

One thing to know: Lacy struggled with his weight in 2015, then got hurt early in 2016. He's still just 26, with only 788 career carries. He could have value to teams who believe his 1,000-yard first two seasons were the real Lacy when he's healthy.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Barry Church, S

Age: 29

Previous team: Dallas Cowboys

Key 2016 stats: 85 tackles, one forced fumble, two interceptions, 85.3 PFF grade

One thing to know: Church posted a career year in 2016 and helped a surprisingly stout Cowboys secondary. He may have several suitors this offseason.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Russell Okung, OT

Age: 29

Previous team: Denver Broncos

Key 2016 stats: 73.5 PFF grade

One thing to know: Okung negotiated his own contract with the Broncos last year, and it backfired, as the Broncos cut him after just one season. He was only okay last season, but may still have suitors this year as he's usually been a reliable force on the offensive line.

(Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Latavius Murray, RB

Age: 27

Previous team: Oakland Raiders

Key 2016 stats: 195 carries, 788 yards, 12 touchdowns, 4.0 yards per carry, 73.1 PFF grade

One thing to know: Murray didn't post a great 2016 season, but he was still a high-volume scorer for a potent Raiders offense. With the ability to also catch passes, Murray could have several suitors.

(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

Bonus: Tony Romo, QB

Age: 36

Previous team: Dallas Cowboys

Key 2016 stats: Three completions, 75% completion, 29 yards, one touchdown

One thing to know: Romo lost his job to Dak Prescott last season. He's not technically a free agent, but Romo may be the flashiest names on the trade market, as teams look for a veteran quarterback to push them over the top. How much Romo has left in the tank, however, is unknown.

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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