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Quick hit thoughts on the Patriots and the fifth day of NFL free agency 2017

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As they did on Sunday, the Patriots did not make any moves yesterday.

On Sunday, the New England Patriots had their least active day of this year’s free agency period. On Monday, they doubled down on that and remained out of the spotlight they have held for large stretches over the first three days.

However, that does not mean that there were no news and that speculation and rumors stopped floating around. Let’s take a look at it.

Hightower still tries to push his price tag...

Entering the sixth day of free agency, Dont’a Hightower remains unsigned. It is not for a lack of effort, though, as he already visited the Tennessee Titans and the New York Jets and is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh for a meeting with the Steelers later today. The Titans are reportedly already out of the running, while the Steelers typically do not spend big on outside free agents (but, then again, so did the Patriots prior to this year).

Pittsburgh may or may not be genuinely interested in signing Hightower, but it becomes clear that he and his team want to push the price tag as high up as they can. After visiting New England’s top divisional rival, they are now heading to the team’s top conference rival in search of the best possible deal. The Patriots probably won’t flinch too much, though.

...but the Patriots appear to be confident he returns

New England’s fellow competitors for the 27-year old believe he will return to Foxboro – and it appears as if the Patriots share this sentiment. After all, the team did not aggressively try to upgrade its linebacker corps in preparation of potentially losing Hightower. Either the team believes he could easily be replaced with an in-house promotion or, more likely, that the team captain will be back after having assessed the market.

Rex Burkhead would be an intriguing addition

After four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Burkhead is now an unrestricted free agent. Yesterday, the Patriots brought him in for a visit. Coming off the best season of his career, the 26-year old looks like an intriguing option at a slowly developing running back class. As a depth player in Cincinnati, Burkhead saw limited playing time and touched the ball only 13 times over his first three years in the NFL. In 2016, however, he carried the ball 74 times and caught 17 passes for 489 scrimmage yards and two scores.

Attacking the hole with very good vision and pad level, Burkhead could serve as a potential replacement for LeGarrette Blount in New England. However, he might be better suited to take over for Brandon Bolden, who was a core special teamer for the Patriots the last few seasons but offered little on offense. Burkhead has proven to be a solid runner and serviceable pass catcher while playing a similar role as Bolden’s for the Bengals. He might be an upgrade.