The Patriots’ top pending free agent, J.C. Jackson’s future remains up in the air. With just six days to go until the NFL’s franchise tag deadline, the latest reports seem to indicate the Patriots are hesitant to use the projected $17.3 million tag on the 26-year-old All-Pro. Meanwhile, Jackson spoke openly last week about a lack of contact with the team this offseason.
While Mar. 8 marks an official deadline for the use of the franchise tag, and Mar. 13 is the final day the Patriots can negotiate with Jackson exclusively, not having a deal by that point doesn’t mean Jackson is gone for good. The Patriots have let players test the open market in the past, only to have them sign in New England after unrestricted free agency had begun. There were a number of notable cases of that last year alone, including captains David Andrews and James White.
However, it may not be that easy with Jackson. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi tweeted on Wednesday that front office executives at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis are expecting a “robust market” for Jackson’s services if he hits unrestricted free agency. “He’s in his prime and he finds the football,” Giardi passed on from one source he talked to.
Once on the open market, the ‘robust’ competition for Jackson’s services will only drive up what’s expected to be a hefty price to land him. PFF currently projects Jackson to land a four-year, $72 million contract with $56 million guaranteed. That projected $18 million AAV would make Jackson the fourth-highest-paid cornerback in football according to OverTheCap.com.
Will it be the Patriots giving Jackson that deal? Or are they prepared to let one of their best players walk in free agency? Whether it’s for the franchise tag or a long-term extension, the Patriots would need to open up some cap space to bring Jackson back. Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan has the team’s current cap space at at just shy of $5 million, but has said that will cap manipulation tools they can relatively effortlessly get that number up to $30-$40 million.
If the Patriots do elect to move on from Jackson, who else could they spend that money on? Here’s a look at their 22 pending free agents…
A look at the Patriots' pending free agents for 2022
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.