3. Top landing spots for J.C. Jackson – New England Patriots
It goes without saying that the Patriots would love to keep Jackson around for another couple of years. New England’s defense was extremely effective during the regular season thanks to Jackson’s ability to cover the opponent’s top receivers, freeing up Bill Belichick to devise more creative blitz packages and cover schemes with one side of the field secured.
The other benefit for the Patriots is that they can utilize the franchise tag to keep Jackson for at least the 2022 season while negotiating a long-term deal with him at the same time. The franchise tag value for cornerbacks is expected to be roughly $17.7 million this winter, which could be a tight squeeze for a New England team that enters the offseason with just over $8 million in salary-cap room.
The Patriots’ finances could lead Belichick to opt against using the tag, allowing Jackson to test the free-agent market instead and see if he can beat New England’s best offer. While Jackson is unquestionably valuable to the franchise, Belichick’s Patriot Way mantra avoids placing too much emphasis on one or two key players at the cost of bettering the team as a whole.
New England will likely make a push to retain Jackson but the odds of him staying decrease dramatically if the franchise tag is not used. There are simply too many teams with big needs at cornerback that could outspend the Patriots to land Jackson.