The New England Patriots have a lot on their plate this offseason, but it feels like nothing will get done until JC Jackson’s future is addressed.
After playing on a second-round restricted free agent tender in 2021, the star cornerback is set to hit unrestricted free agency.
Coming off making the Pro Bowl and being named a second-team All-Pro, it’s possible Jackson commands top-of-the-market money and the Patriots, as of this writing, don’t have the necessary cap space to pay him his dues.
The franchise tag is a possibility, but the projected earnings for tagged cornerbacks is north of $17.2 million. Assuming New England plans on adding more talent this offseason, paying Jackson $17 million in 2022 would make that almost impossible.
That’s exactly why Henry McKenna of USA TODAY believes the only solution to this predicament is to sign Jackson to an extension with a sizable signing bonus up front to ensure his 2022 cap hit is as low as possible.
The Patriots need to extend JC Jackson and make his cap hit for 2022 as low as possible.
The other option, of course, is simply letting Jackson test the open market and match every incoming offer. The Patriots have exercised this with Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty in the past, and it’s worked, but that’s only because their respective markets lowered their price tag.
That’s unlikely to happen with Jackson, which is why New England needs to be proactive in extending him this offseason. The $17.827 million franchise tag sum could even be a strong point of reference in negotiations.
Something in that range would make Jackson the fourth-highest paid corner in the NFL behind Jalen Ramsey ($20 million), Marshon Lattimore ($19.52 million) and Marlon Humphrey ($19.5 million). Bills star Tre’Davious White checks in fifth at $17.25 million, so even a flat $17 million should appease Jackson.
There’s nothing that says the Patriots couldn’t buy themselves more time on the negotiation front by tagging Jackson. That would give them until July 15 to hash out an extension before he’s forced to play out the year on the tag.
The bottom line is there’s a fairly simple solution that would allow New England to keep Jackson, who dominated in both zone and man coverage in 2021, while incurring a smaller cap hit for 2022 when they’re low on money.
With the league’s new television deals coming into play at the start of the 2023 regular season, the salary cap is going to skyrocket. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with backloading Jackson’s cap hits beyond 2022.
Unless Bill Belichick is actually convinced he can replace Jackson with veteran signings and draft picks, the longtime de facto general manager needs to give serious thought to extending the star cornerback.