The New England Patriots have a big offseason ahead.
Between the growing pressure to surround Mac Jones with better weapons, the possible restructuring of some contracts to create more cap space, and several starters/key rotation players hitting free agency, the front office will have their work cut out for them in the coming months.
Perhaps the biggest question Bill Belichick and Co. offseason is the future of JC Jackson, the team’s top corner who is a pending free agent.
We heard throughout the year that it’s more likely the Patriots let him walk than pay him his dues, and his forgettable showing in the playoff loss to Buffalo could make the decision to let him leave a lot easier.
At least, that’s how former Patriot Rob Ninkovich sees it.
Rob Ninkovich doesn’t think JC Jackson will be back with the Patriots.
"“J.C. Jackson looked like he wanted to get the heck out of there healthy and go to free agency and try to make a bunch of money. Which he will,” Ninkovich said on Chris Long’s ‘Green Light’ podcast last week."
Oof. Yes, New England’s defense as a whole was pathetic and had zero answers for Josh Allen, but Jackson looked uninterested. According to Pro Football Focus, the star cornerback allowed five receptions for 98 yards on six targets, the most of any player on the team.
Jackson received a 39.0 defense grade, his lowest mark since Week 5, and continued to get worked by Stefon Diggs.
Beyond his struggles in coverage, Jackson also had trouble shedding blocks, which could boil down to effort, and appeared disengaged when it was his turn to make a tackle against the run, which proves Ninkovich’s point that he looked like a player who was prioritizing his health after the game got out of hand.
While we can sympathize with Jackson for seemingly not wanting to risk injury before free agency, and one game shouldn’t determine a player’s future with a franchise especially when said player has been brilliant for multiyear stretch, but this (if true) is just a sad look for the second-team All-Pro.
Leaders are supposed to lead by example through the trials and tribulations of a season. If you think Belichick didn’t notice Jackson’s lack of effort after Buffalo jumped out to a big lead, you clearly haven’t been paying attention for the last 20 years.
We learn every year that NFL free agency is unpredictable, but it feels like Ninkovich hit the nail on the head with these comments.
If Jackson was already a long shot to return to New England before the playoff loss, we can only imagine what the odds are now.