Patriots' Dont'a Hightower shares his thoughts on pending free agency

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In an informative interview with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on the "Know Them From Adam" podcast, New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower shed light on his mindset as he enters unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Specifically, Schefter asked Hightower what he is looking for in a team.

"I love what I have in New England," Hightower said. "I don't have too much drawn up. I just want to be respected and loved."

We highlighted Hightower's value to the Patriots on Tuesday morning. He's made two clutch plays in each of the team's last two Super Bowl victories, and is in position to command a top-of-the-line contract.

He was asked by Schefter what he expects in free agency.

"I'm not sure. Obviously I have a few friends, a few teammates going into it with me. Chandler Jones [in Arizona], Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, a lot of guys I'm close to," he said on the podcast. "Jamie [Collins] obviously signed his deal [in Cleveland], I've reached out and talked to him a little bit.

"I'm sure it will be a journey, a rough and rocky one. But I'm looking forward to it. I've had five good years and I'm looking forward to what's coming my way."

Would he consider taking the proverbial hometown discount?

"We'll see, man, we have a long time coming. We've got a long process going throughout," he answered. "I'm sure [agent] Pat [Dye], Nick [Caserio] and Bill [Belichick] will be in touch whenever that time comes. I'm going to soak up this Super Bowl LI. I haven't had enough of that yet."

Hightower, who on ESPN's NFL Live program on Wednesday didn't seem averse to receiving the franchise tag, laughed when Schefter set up the following scenario for him to see if it was accurate:

"In the NFL, you don't get many chances to become a free agent. You're 26 years old. They exercised the fifth-year option [in 2016] because that was their right. Now you get to exercise free agency and see what's out there. So in a perfect world, yes, you would love to be back in New England and if it works out, that would be great. But it is your duty and obligation to go out there, explore the market, see what's out there, and if some team shows you much more love, respect and appreciation than New England does, as disappointing as it would be, then it would be time to move on."

Hightower's thoughts on that?

"I'm not going to agree with you 100 percent," Hightower responded, "but I think you're about there. I think you did a lot better job than I did."