The New England Patriots have made their decision on restricted free agent J.C. Jackson.
Hours before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, the Patriots placed a second-round tender on the 25-year-old cornerback, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
If signed, the tender will pay Jackson $3.384 million this season. If another team signs Jackson to an offer sheet and the Patriots decline to match, New England would receive a second-round draft pick.
A first-round tender would have paid Jackson $4.766 million. An original-round tender would have carried a 2021 salary of $2.183 million.
Jackson was one of the NFL’s premier ball hawks in 2020, pulling down nine interceptions in 16 games and adding two fumble recoveries. Only Miami Dolphins All-Pro Xavien Howard had more picks (10). Jackson’s 11 total takeaways ranked second in Patriots franchise history behind Mel Hall, who had 13 in 1964.
It wasn’t a flawless campaign for Jackson, though. He struggled at times when injuries sidelined No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore, surrendering five touchdown passes and 584 total receiving yards, per Pro Football Focus. Jackson let up just one touchdown and 590 yards over his first two NFL seasons combined.
?I feel like I had an OK season,? Jackson said in late December after being snubbed from the AFC Pro Bowl roster. ?I could have done much better. In some games, I could have played better, better performance. I?ll never give myself credit. I can be way better than I was this year, trust me. They haven?t seen nothing yet.”
Since entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2018, Jackson has allowed receptions on just 52.2 percent of his targets in coverage and posted a passer rating against of 44.5. His 17 career interceptions rank second in the league during that span, trailing only Howard (18).
The Patriots also face questions regarding their other two top cornerbacks. Gilmore, who is set to earn a below-market salary of $7 million in 2021, is a trade candidate, and Jason McCourty is an unrestricted free agent.