The Patriots are making a low-risk, high-reward gamble to try to save their injury-ravaged cornerback group.

No, J.C. Jackson wasn’t close to an effective player during his brief, ill-fated stint with the Los Angeles Chargers. But bringing him back will cost New England next to nothing.

The impending trade that will reunite Jackson with his first NFL franchise reportedly involves a swap of late-round picks in the 2025 NFL Draft, with the Patriots receiving Jackson and a seventh-rounder in exchange for a sixth.

And though Jackson is in just the second season of the five-year, $82.5 million contract he signed in 2022, the Patriots will be on the hook for just a sliver of that money.

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NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported the Chargers agreed to pay “the majority” of Jackson’s $12 million guaranteed salary for this season to be rid of a player who was a healthy scratch for the last two weeks. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler added that New England only will pay “around $1.5 million” for Jackson’s services for the rest of 2023.

The rest of Jackson’s contract reportedly remained unchanged, but he does not have any guaranteed money remaining beyond this season, making it relatively easy for the Patriots to either restructure his deal ahead of the 2024 campaign or cut bait if his struggles persist.

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Head coach Bill Belichick will be hoping a return to New England can morph Jackson back into the player he was in his first Patriots stint. From the time he signed as an undrafted rookie in 2018 to his departure after the 2021 season, the 27-year-old led the NFL with 25 interceptions and ranked third with 53 passes defended.

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In his final Patriots season, Jackson grabbed eight INTs and defended a league-best 23 passes, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors for the first time. He landed a big-money deal with the Chargers after the Patriots let him walk in free agency, and his career cratered.

Jackson struggled mightily in five games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and LA head coach Brandon Staley opted to make him inactive after a rough start to 2023.

The Patriots will need Jackson — who, despite not appearing on any Chargers injury reports, recently said he’s “not 100%” healthy — to quickly reacclimate to their defense. They entered the week down each of their top four outside cornerbacks.

Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones all have missed multiple games with injuries, and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Christian Gonzalez suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum in Sunday’s loss to Dallas that reportedly is expected to end his season.

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Jonathan Jones was able to practice in a limited capacity for the last several weeks, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak said he believes the veteran won’t be back for at least another week.

Jack Jones is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, but multiple reports indicated he might not be ready to do so until midseason. Marcus Jones must miss at least three more games and could be out for much longer.

New England played most of the Cowboys game with Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade as its only available corners, with safeties Jalen Mills and Marte Mapu filling in in the slot and rookie Ameer Speed only playing on special teams.

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Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images