The Patriots were dealt a devastating blow during Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, when both Christian Gonzalez, who was well on his way as a top candidate to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Matthew Judon, on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career, went down with injuries.
The worst news came days later, as it was revealed they had both suffered injuries requiring surgery and would keep them sidelined for most of, if not the remainder of the season.
Fortunately, with the addition of rookie Keion White from the draft earlier this year, the rise of Josh Uche, and the soon return of Trey Flowers, the defensive front seems to be in better hands than the secondary at this point, which explains why Bill Belichick made sure to go out and trade for a star cornerback earlier this week.
With Jack, Jonathan, and Marcus Jones all dealing with their own injuries, the cornerback room was down their starting four players heading into week five. Although no update has been provided regarding Jack and Jonathan's statuses, it was evident that changes were needed not to repeat blowout losses as they did at the hands of the Cowboys on Sunday.
Because former lockdown cornerback J.C. Jackson had not found his footing since signing with the Chargers before the 2022 season, he became an available trade option for the Patriots in recent weeks. So it wasn't shocking to hear the news that the trade was made official and Jackson was headed back to New England.
Although he has been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out sporadically throughout last year, he became a healthy scratch in a few games this season for the Chargers. It was clear from the start that he wasn't a fit with their defensive scheme, resulting in a decline in his performance that allowed him to earn one of the biggest contracts in the NFL at his position.
Now that he's returned to where it all started, it eases some nervousness regarding the secondary for the rest of the season. It's unclear how much his lingering injury will impact him on the field or if he will revert to what earned him the nickname of Mr. INT, but according to his teammates at practice with him on Thursday, he looked like the same cornerback that they played with two seasons ago.
His addition makes the Patriots have one of the best secondaries in the league next year, as Jackson is under contract through the 2026 season. And to make it even better, the Chargers are paying nearly all his salary for the 2023 season, allowing New England to pay just $1.55 million for a potentially top-ranked cornerback.
It's another example of how Belichick has a way of finessing General managers around the league to make trades work more in his favor. We know he doesn't like to pay players big-time contracts, and this latest trade gets him out of doing just that.
It also gets him off the hook for owing Jackson a lot of money for the next three seasons, as the cornerback has already earned all his guaranteed money. Whether or not he stays with the Patriots during that time is yet to be seen, but the way the trade worked out allows them more flexibility with the cap and opens the door for a potentially easier trade if that's what they see fit.