The New England Patriots‘ release of Cam Newton probably had a bigger ripple effect, but the near-release and subsequent trade of Stephon Gilmore on Wednesday was pretty darn close in terms of the collective shock reaction.
While fans were up in arms about the move (rightly so), the Patriots, for as much as they might’ve mishandled the situation, did extremely well to acquire a sixth-round pick from Carolina instead of letting him walk for nothing.
However, let’s put the Gilmore drama on ice for now.
The decision to trade the star cornerback sets the stage for JC Jackson to handle No. 1 CB duties for the entire season.
Jackson should handle that role without a hitch, but will the Patriots reward his past success with a new deal in the offseason?
What’s next for Patriots cornerback JC Jackson after Stephon Gilmore’s release?
Based on his track record, Jackson should already have a long-term contract in place — at least in our eyes — but he’ll hit unrestricted free agency after the Patriots hit him with a second-round tender this past offseason.
That was an admittedly bold move from New England, as it ran the risk of Jackson joining another team. Were they convinced he’d sign the tender or do they not value him as much as fans and the media previously thought?
It’s tough to say. Why would the Patriots low-ball Jackson after he finished second in the NFL with nine interceptions last year? Or were they just biding themselves time to sign Jackson given how much they spent in free agency?
Perhaps New England wanted to let the Gilmore situation play itself out before they drew any conclusions on Jackson’s future. Regardless, they’re currently without a No. 1 CB for 2021. That’s extremely worrisome.
Assuming Jackson holds up well as a top corner on the depth chart, he should return to the organization, After all, the 2022 free agent market isn’t all that enticing, unless you’re attracted to the idea of signing one of Joe Haden, Chris Harris, Xavier Rhodes or Patrick Paterson, each of whom are age-31 or older.
Losing Gilmore kind of backs the Patriots into a corner, though Jackson is far from a consolation prize. The 25-year-old has 117 tackles, 19 interceptions, and 34 pass breakups in just 49 career games (26 starts). Those numbers are worthy of a lucrative contract, so the Pats better be proactive in negotiations.
We like to think Jackson will be back in New England next year. Whether that comes in the form of a big-money deal or a potential franchise tag, though, remains to be seen. That’ll likely be determined based on how Jackson holds up with a full season lining up against opposing team’s star receivers.
Either way, the Patriots have a lot of questions to answer.