2. CB JC Jackson
It’s not fun to discuss this … but there’s really no way to avoid it. JC Jackson, who has been an interception machine ever since making his NFL debut after going undrafted back in 2018, had a career year in 2021.
He led the league with 23 passes defended and started all 17 games (after not starting more than 11 in his career). He stepped right in as the new No. 1 option following Stephon Gilmore’s injury and eventual trade without a hitch.
Cornerbacks are among the most sought-after talents in free agency and there will be plenty of teams out there willing to pay top-dollar for a ball hawk such as Jackson (25 interceptions in 62 career games) and Belichick rarely gets into bidding wars or has one player taking up a significant percentage of the payroll.
Jackson will, unfortunately, cost more than Gilmore’s “bank-breaking” (for the Patriots’ standards) five-year, $65 million contract years ago. We can expect something in the $80-$100 million for Jackson based on what we’ve seen handed out to his peers Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey and Tre’Davious White.
When you realize the Patriots still have a capable group of cornerbacks with Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant and Jonathan Jones, it wouldn’t be crazy for Belichick to add to the group with a more cost-effective free agency signing and then a high draft pick (this year’s class is loaded with cornerbacks).
After the massive spending spree that occurred last year, we just don’t know if there’s enough bandwidth for Jackson if he’s going to attract almost league-wide interest.