Patriots Don’t Use Franchise Tag On J.C. Jackson; Here’s What That Means

Jackson likely is bound for free agency


Mar 8, 2022

It’s official: New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson will not receive the franchise tag this offseason.

As expected, the Patriots did not tag Jackson ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. Multiple outlets last week reported New England was not expected to franchise their Pro Bowl cover man, who played on a one-year restricted free agent tender in 2021. The franchise tag would have paid Jackson $17.3 million this season.

Though it remains theoretically possible for Jackson and the Patriots to agree on a contract extension before the NFL league year opens next Wednesday, the 26-year-old almost certainly will hit unrestricted free agency for the first time. And, as the top cornerback available, he’s expected to cash in.

Jackson, who leads the NFL in interceptions (25) since he entered the NFL in 2018, is seeking “Jalen Ramsey money,” according to a report from NFL Media’s Mike Giardi, meaning a deal worth roughly $20 million per year. If he gets that, it’s unlikely to come from the Patriots.

Losing Jackson in free agency — the most likely outcome at this juncture — would leave a massive hole in the Patriots’ secondary with no desirable internal replacement options. Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and special teamer Justin Bethel are their only cornerbacks currently under contract for 2022, and of that group, only Mills and Jones have looked like viable NFL starters.

New England, which would have needed to improve its corner depth even if Jackson re-signed, will look to fill that void with external free agents and/or 2022 NFL Draft picks.

Veteran corners set to hit the market next week include Carlton Davis, Charvarius Ward, Steven Nelson, Casey Heyward Jr., Darious Williams, D.J. Reed, Rasul Douglas, Mike Hughes, Donte Jackson, Eli Apple and ex-Patriot Stephon Gilmore, whom the team controversially traded to Carolina last October.

The 25-year-old Davis, who did not receive the franchise tag from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the top available option behind Jackson.

Headlining New England’s list of potential draft targets are Clemson’s Andrew Booth, Washington’s Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon and Florida’s Kaiir Elam, all of whom are expected to hear their names called in the first two rounds. The Patriots currently own pick No. 21 overall in Round 1 and No. 54 overall in Round 2.

Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images
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