Why Pro Bowl Corner JC Jackson Could Make the Patriots Pay For Letting Him Walk

The New England Patriots enter the offseason in a less-than-ideal financial situation. They have $7.3 million in salary-cap space, which is below the NFL average ($15.9 million). As a result, the front office must make some difficult decisions on key free agents. JC Jackson is the most prominent of the bunch, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be returning in 2022.

The Patriots opted not to use the franchise tag on Jackson. Now, the Pro Bowl cornerback will officially test the free-agent market. Even though New England wasn’t willing to pay Jackson what he’s worth, several teams will. Unfortunately for Bill Belichick and company, they might have to face the shutdown corner twice a year.

JC Jackson could be hard for the Patriots to replace

JC Jackson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL today, and he knows it. The Maryland product appeared to want to stay in New England. However, the Patriots front office had other plans.

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, the Patriots don’t expect to use the franchise tag on Jackson in the offseason. The deadline to use the tag is Tuesday, Mar 8., meaning the window is rapidly closing. New England would have to pay the star cornerback around $17.2 million for the 2022 season if the front office decided to use it. Instead, he’ll test the free-agent market.

Jackson has the numbers to warrant a hefty contract in free agency. He has recorded 158 tackles, 53 passes defended, and 25 interceptions in four seasons with the Patriots. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 82.7 for the 2021 season. Jackson picked off eight passes and allowed 50 receptions on 98 targets.

With the Pro Bowl corner likely playing elsewhere in 2022, Bill Belichick and company must look for a replacement. Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones project as the top two cornerbacks at the moment, followed by Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant.

The Patriots don’t have the talent on their roster to make up for the loss of JC Jackson.

The Dolphins and Jets are prime to land the Pro Bowl cornerback

Patriots cornerback JC Jackson in action against the Colts
JC Jackson of the New England Patriots facing the Indianapolis Colts | Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today’s NFL is a passing league, meaning the value of high-quality defensive backs is at an all-time high. JC Jackson undoubtedly fits that bill. With the 26-year-old testing the waters in free agency, expect several teams to make a run at the Patriots standout.

Multiple teams should be in the market for cornerback help in the offseason, but two specific squads come to mind — the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

After finishing with the league’s third-worst pass defense, the Jets must be in the market to add talent to their secondary. New York allowed 259.3 passing yards per game to opposing offenses and 28 touchdowns on the season. The Jets are very young at cornerback and could use a proven commodity like Jackson to bolster the unit.

The Dolphins’ secondary is in a better position, but if the front office has a chance to land Jackson, it better jump. Miami currently has three-time Pro Bowler Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Adding the Patriots star to the mix would give the Dolphins two studs and a solid No. 3 cornerback.

Both squads have the means to give JC Jackson a noteworthy contract. The Dolphins have $61.2 million in cap space, which leads the NFL. The Jets have $44.7 million, which is also a comfortable number heading into free agency.

Not to mention if Jackson signs with either team, he’d get to face New England twice a year and remind them just how good he is.

How much will Jackson command in free agency?

It’s difficult to believe the New England Patriots wouldn’t want to keep JC Jackson if they were in a better position financially. However, they had the option to use the franchise tag and still didn’t care to make it work.

New England’s decision will allow Jackson to make more money in free agency, though. The Immokalee, Florida native is looking for a big payday, but how much could he actually command?

Jackson’s market value is five years, $104.7 million, which equates to $20.9 million annually. A similar contract would make the Patriots Pro Bowler the highest-paid cornerback in the league, over Jalen Ramsey, Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, and Tre’Davious White.

Not many teams could give him such a massive contract, but the Jets and Dolphins likely could swing it. That would ensure that Jackson stays in the AFC East, which could spell trouble for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac

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