J.C. Jackson is locked up for the 2021 season.
The New England Patriots cornerback officially signed his second-round restricted free agent tender with the team Friday, a source told NESN’s Doug Kyed. Jackson posted a photo of himself signing the deal on his Instagram page.
Interested teams now cannot sign Jackson to an offer sheet, though the Patriots theoretically could trade him before the season begins. His tender is a one-year, $3.384 million contract that sets Jackson up for a sizable payday in 2022.
Jackson joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Last season, he ranked second in the NFL in interceptions with nine — trailing only Miami Dolphins All-Pro Xavien Howard — though he struggled at times when injuries sidelined top corner Stephon Gilmore.
Over the last three seasons, Howard is the only NFL player with more interceptions than Jackson (17). Jackson’s 11 total takeaways in 2020 (nine picks, two fumble recoveries) was the second-highest single-season total in franchise history and the highest of the Bill Belichick era. Ron Hall holds the Patriots record with 13 takeaways (11 INTs, two fumble recoveries) in 1964.
Locking up Jackson helps solidify the Patriots’ cornerback group for the upcoming season, but that unit still faces some significant questions. Chief among them: What will happen with Gilmore, who’s unlikely to play for the below-market salary of $7 million he’s set to earn in 2021?
New England likely will need to either extend or trade the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who reportedly “would be very open” to an extension.
“It’s out of my control,” Gilmore told The Boston Globe last week when asked about his contract situation. “I’m just happy to be a Patriot right now, and see how it goes.”
Versatile third cornerback Jason McCourty also has yet to sign with a new team since becoming an unrestricted free agent in mid-March.
?I just want to be somewhere I’m wanted and (have) an opportunity to compete and help the guys around me,” McCourty said last month on “Good Morning Football.”
The Patriots currently have Gilmore, Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Dee Virgin and special teamer Justin Bethel under contract for this season. Jones, Bryant and Williams also saw action at safety in 2020.