NEW YORK — The New York Jets are interested in signing a big free-agent prize away from an AFC East rival.

Free agent linebacker Dont’a Hightower has visited the Jets, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

Hightower, one of the most-coveted players in free agency this year, has helped the New England Patriots win two Super Bowls in his five NFL seasons. Hightower, a Pro Bowl selection last season, met with the Jets on Sunday and Monday, according to the person who spoke Monday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the visit.

CBS Sports first reported Hightower’s meeting with the Jets on Sunday night. ESPN reported on Monday that Hightower was next scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL Network also reported that Hightower has already met with Tennessee.

New England is also interested in bringing back Hightower, who has 372 career tackles and 17 sacks since being a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2012. Hightower forced a fumble when he sacked Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, helping swing the momentum New England’s way in its comeback 34-28 overtime victory last month.

Hightower, who turned 27 on Sunday, also had a big play in the Patriots’ previous Super Bowl win two years ago. He tackled Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line, and Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the next play to help seal the Patriots’ 28-24 win.

Hightower will likely have several offers to consider, but the Jets’ interest is intriguing. If they bring him in, it could spell the end of David Harris’ time with the team. Harris is the Jets’ longest-tenured player – he was a second-round pick in 2007 – but the 33-year-old linebacker is scheduled to count $6.5 million against New York’s salary cap this season.

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