There’s been no contact this offseason between J.C. Jackson’s representatives and the New England Patriots, according to the Pro Bowl cornerback.
Jackson on Tuesday told NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry that he and the Patriots have not engaged in any contract talks since the season ended. The 26-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the NFL league year begins March 16.
“I guess they feel like they don’t need me,” Jackson told Perry. “I guess I can’t be that important to them. I know I am, but they’re not showing me.”
Jackson said the Patriots did approach him during the season about a potential extension, but that no deal came from those talks.
“It was all positive things,” he said. “I wanted to focus on ball at the time. I wanted to finish the season the right way. I didn’t really come back to them on it.”
Jackson, who would be the top corner available if he hits the market, is a strong candidate for the franchise tag. The Patriots have utilized the tag 10 times during the Bill Belichick era but just twice in the last nine offseasons.
“I love the game,” Jackson told Perry. “If they tag me, I’m gonna go out there and play.”
He added: “Whatever happens, happens. I’m taking it day by day. But it’s time for me to get paid. It’s time to get Mr. INT paid.”
Jackson ranked first in the NFL in passes defended (23) and second in interceptions (eight) this season, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. He also ranked fourth in passer rating against among cornerbacks with at least 100 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
A former undrafted free agent, Jackson leads all NFL players in interceptions since he entered the league in 2018, inspiring his aforementioned nickname.
The Patriots lacked quality depth at cornerback this season and would have no obvious internal replacement for Jackson if he lands elsewhere. New England has until March 8 to place the franchise tag on Jackson, which would allow them to either lock him up for one additional season at a salary of roughly $17.3 million, give them additional time to work out a contract extension or trade him for an asset.
Jackson earned a salary of $3.384 million this season on a one-year restricted free agent tender. He’s sure to receive a massive raise in the coming weeks, either via the franchise tag or with a hefty new contract.