New England Patriots

Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) runs after intercepting a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The more we learn about J.C. Jackson’s pending free agency, the less likely it seems he’ll be returning to New England for the 2022 season. A new report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests that, at the very least, the 26-year-old All-Pro will have a chance to test the open market.

Appearing on NFL Network’s NFL Combine coverage Friday afternoon, Rapoport said the Patriots are “not expected” to use the franchise tag on Jackson. Using the tag, which would cost the team an estimated $17.2 million, would at least guarantee Jackson one more year in New England, while giving the Patriots a longer window to work out a long-term extension or trade.

Jackson is expected to have a ‘robust market‘ once he hits unrestricted free agency. PFF projects him to land a deal worth $18 million per year, although some experts have suggested his eventual deal could approach a $20 million AAV, which currently is the highest for a cornerback in the NFL (Jalen Ramsey).

A look at the Patriots' pending free agents for 2022

  • S Devin McCourty (UFA)

    Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates after an interception against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Age at start of 2022 season: 35

    2021 salary: $8.9 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 60 tackles, 10 PBUs, 3 INTs, 94% usage rate

    The Patriots have plenty of incentive to bring Devin McCourty back for 2022. He played well in 2021, provides valuable veteran leadership, they don’t have an obvious replacement for him on the roster, and reworking his deal before free agency would lessen the cap impact of the void years of the expiring contract.

  • LB Dont'a Hightower (UFA)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 19: Linebacker Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots reacts after making a defensive play in the second quarter of the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Age: 32

    2021 salary: $8.6 million

    2021 stats: 15 games, 64 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 67% usage rate

    Dont’a Hightower has been a cornerstone of the Patriots’ defense for a decade. Will he remain in New England beyond 2021?

  • OT Trent Brown (UFA)

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 29

    2021 salary: $7.6 million

    2021 stats: 9 games, 9 starts, 84% usage rate

    Upon his return to the organization, Trent Brown spoke glowingly of what it means to him to be a Patriot. Is it enough for him to take a hometown discount?

  • CB J.C. Jackson (UFA)

    Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) reacts after intercepting a pass in the Tennessee Titans end zone in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) reacts after intercepting a pass in the Tennessee Titans end zone in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 27

    2021 salary: $3.4 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 58 tackles, 23 PBUs, 8 INTs, 88% usage rate

    J.C. Jackson will likely command top cornerback money on the open market, which could set his value close to $20 million per year on a multi-year deal. He seems like a strong candidate for the franchise tag, which is projected to be $17.5 million this upcoming season.

  • ST Matthew Slater (UFA)

    Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 37

    2021 salary: $3 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 11 tackles, 80% usage rate (special teams)

    Matthew Slater spoke about his football future after Saturday’s game. Retirement is on the table, and a return is always possible, but it seems unlikely he’d end up playing elsewhere.

  • C/G Ted Karras (UFA)

    Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New England Patriots guard Ted Karras (67) takes on the field prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 29

    2021 salary: $3 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 13 starts, 75% usage rate

    Ted Karras entered 2021 as the Patriots’ sixth offensive lineman, but shined in a starting role after injuries saw him inserted into the lineup. Will there be a starting job lined up for him in 2022? If not he may go elsewhere for such a role – and the money that comes with it. Between last season in Miami and this year, he’s proven he’s a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the NFL.

  • RB James White (UFA)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: James White #28 of the New England Patriots makes a catch past the reach of Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: James White #28 of the New England Patriots makes a catch past the reach of Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Age: 30

    2021 salary: $2.5 million

    2021 stats: 3 games, 10 carries, 38 yards, TD, 12 receptions, 94 yards, 31% usage rate

    James White begins the offseason working his way back from a season-ending hip injury. The Patriots don’t have a clear replacement in place to be their next pass-catching back, so there is a case to bring White back if he’s healthy.

  • ST Brandon King (UFA)

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Brandon King (36) prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 29

    2021 salary: $1.1 million

    2021 stats: 16 games, 10 tackles, 75% usage rate (special teams)

    Brandon King returned after missing two seasons to play a key role on the Patriots’ special teams unit. With Matthew Slater potentially on this way out, King would be one of the team’s longest tenured core special teamers.

  • RB Brandon Bolden (UFA)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 14: Brandon Bolden #25 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Denzel Ward #21 of the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 14: Brandon Bolden #25 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Denzel Ward #21 of the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Age: 32

    2021 salary: $1 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 14 carries, 226 yards, TD, 41 receptions, 405 yards, 2 TDs, 31% usage rate offense, 63% usage rate special teams

    Brandon Bolden was pressed into action after James White’s injury, and after a rocky start filled in as well as anybody could have expected. That, combined will his role on special teams, make him a strong candidate to return next season.

  • QB Brian Hoyer (UFA)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 07: Brian Hoyer #5 of the New England Patriots calls a play at the line during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

    Age: 37

    2021 cap hit: $1 million

    2021 stats: 5 games, 9-of-11, 227 yards, TD

    Even though he wasn’t on the field much, Brian Hoyer played an important role with the 2021 Patriots helping develop rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Jones repeatedly spoke highly of their relationship. Will Hoyer be back to fill a similar role next year? He’s expressed interest in staying in New England long-term in the past.

  • DT Carl Davis (UFA)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 19: Defensive tackle Carl Davis #98 of the New England Patriots sacks quarterback Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets looks in the third quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 19: Defensive tackle Carl Davis #98 of the New England Patriots sacks quarterback Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets looks in the third quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Age: 30

    2021 cap hit: $1 million

    2021 stats: 17 games, 19 tackles, 26% usage rate

    Carl Davis was one of the biggest winners of training camp, and parlayed that into a rotational role on the defensive line.

  • LB Harvey Langi (UFA)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Harvey Langi #52 of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Age: 30

    2021 cap hit: $995K

    2021 stats: 7 games, 3 tackles, 53% usage rate (special teams)

    The Patriots signed Harvey Langi for a second stint before the season. He mainly played a special teams role until a MCL sprain ended his season in Week 7.

  • K Nick Folk (UFA)

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 18: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a field goal in the firs quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

    Age: 38

    2021 cap hit: $955K

    2021 stats: 17 games, 36-for-39 field goals, 53 long, 42-of-47 PATs

    For the second year in a row, Nick Folk was one of the best kickers in football. Last year, there didn’t appear to be much of a market for him despite his success. Will that be the case again this time around? Unless the Patriots have complete faith in practice squad kicker Quinn Nordin, bringing Folk back seems like a strong possibility.

  • LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (UFA)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots celebrates after tackling Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Age: 26

    2021 cap hit: $920K

    2021 stats: 16 games, 109 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 69% usage rate

    Ja’Whaun Bentley showed he’s a starting-caliber player over the last two years, and will likely look to get paid as such. If Dont’a Hightower leaves, that’s a price the Patriots may need to consider meeting due to their lack of depth at the middle linebacker position.

  • WR Jakobi Meyers (RFA)

    Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 26

    2021 cap hit: $850K

    2021 stats: 17 games, 83 receptions, 866 yards, 2 TDs

    After leading the Patriots is receptions and receiving yards, it seems highly likely the Patriots will tender Jakobi Meyers to keep him in 2022. They can either offer him an original round tender for $2.5 million, or if they’re worried another team might sign him they could use a first or second round tender worth $5.5 million and $3.9 million respectively. No matter the case, it’s a steal for a receiver of his caliber.

  • WR/PR Gunner Olszewski (RFA)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 07: Gunner Olszewski #80 of the New England Patriots returns a kickoff during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 07: Gunner Olszewski #80 of the New England Patriots returns a kickoff during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    Age: 26

    2021 cap hit: $850K

    2021 stats: 26 punt returns, 11.9 yards per return, 18 kick returns, 416 yards per return, 2 receptions, 31 yards

    Just a year removed from being an All-Pro punt returner, the Patriots should keep Olszewski around. He’s a logical candidate for an original round or right of first refusal tender ($2.5 million).

  • FB Jakob Johnson (RFA)

    Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson (47) during warm ups prior to a game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 28

    2021 cap hit: $850K

    2021 stats: 17 games, 4 receptions, 43 yards, 28% usage rate offense, 44% usage rate special teams

    Jakob Johnson has stepped right into the fullback role in New England and found success. The Patriots can tender Johnson for $2.5 million this offseason.

  • LB Jamie Collins (UFA)

    Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New England Patriots inside linebacker Jamie Collins (58) reacts with defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) after getting a sack during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 33

    2021 cap hit: $836K

    2021 stats: 30 tackles, 3 PBU, INT, sack

    Twice, Jamie Collins has left New England in free agency. Both times, he’s ended up back in New England. Will that pattern reach a third oscillation starting in 2022?

  • TE Troy Fumagalli (UFA)

    Jun 16, 2021; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Troy Fumagalli (88) participates in a drill during the New England Patriots mini camp at the New England Patriots practice complex. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 27

    2021 cap hit: $465K

    2021 stats: N/A

    Troy Fumagalli spent the season on IR after being waived in mid-August.

  • LB Terez Hall (ERFA)

    Dec 20, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots linebacker Terez Hall (59) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 26

    2021 cap hit: $440K

    2021 stats: N/A

    Because Terez Hall spent the season on the PUP list, he didn’t accrue an official season and is an exclusive rights free agent. As long as the Patriots offer him a contract, other teams cannot negotiate with him.

  • G Alex Redmond (SFA)

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Alex Redmond (64) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 27

    2021 cap hit: $182K

    2021 stats: N/A

    Alex Redmond spent most of the season on the Patriots practice squad before being placed on IR late in the year. He didn’t appear in any games in 2021.

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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.