The New England Patriots might be back in first place in the AFC East thanks to the sensational play of Mac Jones, but it would be foolish to overlook the contributions of the league’s best scoring defense. One of the architects of that unit has been star cornerback JC Jackson.
The former undrafted free agent out of Maryland might actually be having a better year than he did in 2020 — when he recorded nine interceptions.
Jackson has intercepted seven passes in 2021, including four since the start of Week 9. Even with those numbers, somehow, there are doubts about Jackson returning to New England in 2022.
Jackson is in line for a humungous contract extension. Belichick’s history of letting homegrown stars leave in free agency and success with developing young defensive backs has prompted some to postulate that Jackson is on his way out.
If this happens, much of the good work Belichick did in the 2021 offseason could be erased. Keeping Jackson in New England this coming offseason should be the top priority.
If Belichick really thinks his production can be easily replaced, someone needs to convince him otherwise.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots need to pay JC Jackson.
Jackson is not just a good cornerback. He may be the best defensive back in the league when it comes to generating turnovers. That’s not a skill that can be found in every draft pick or free agent off of the street. Belichick developed Jackson into a star, but lightning may not strike twice.
Yes, the 2022 NFL Draft is absolutely stacked with potential star cornerbacks, but Belichick has his failures with Cyrus Jones and Joejuan Williams. While it’s more likely than not the Patriots can turn one of the incoming corners into a bonafide stud, nothing is guaranteed. And when you have a proven commodity right in front of you, what’s the sense in letting it go?
This defense is one of the main reasons that the Patriots have been able to put Mac Jones in a position to succeed. Trying to replace two elite players in Jackson and Stephon Gilmore in one offseason is … bold!
Jackson is leading the league in passes defended this year. His 16 interceptions across his last 28 games is also the most in the NFL. It will take multiple years of development before a rookie ends up even dreaming to reach that level. Freed from the obligation of paying Gilmore, Jackson should get a blank check from New England.
Even if Belichick doesn’t want to pay him this year, New England can still franchise tag him and bring him back before letting him hit free agency in 2023. Anything less would be a completely pitiful job of roster management, as they’d be losing their second All-Pro corner in the span of just a few months.
In what has turned into a passing league, that would be unacceptable.