Above all else, the Patriots have to get J.C. Jackson under contract for next year
If the Patriots prioritize bringing back one of their main free agents, one would think cornerback J.C. Jackson would be at the top of Belichick’s list. As with Ward, Jackson went undrafted out of college. While a lot of off-the-field issues went into Jackson going undrafted out of Maryland by way of Florida, he is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. Could he get slapped with the tag?
Jackson has demonstrated great ball-hawking tendencies in his four years with the Patriots. One could argue his ascension to the upper crust of the NFL defensive back hierarchy allowed Gilmore to leave not that far removed from his NFL Defensive Player of the Year season. While there are other cornerbacks of note hitting free agency, should the Patriots prioritize bringing back Jackson?
No matter what happens, Jackson is about to get paid. He could be a candidate for the franchise tag by New England, as he has not made significant money after having gone undrafted. However, the Patriots are not swimming in cap space and cannot afford to pay a premium for any one of their guys. With how important he has been to this defense, it would be shocking to see him walk.
Look for the Patriots to have Jackson under contract to make up for being undervalued for years.