J.C. Jackson, one of the top corners in the NFL, will have an opportunity to see what the open market offers.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on NFL NOW at the Combine on Friday that the New England Patriots are not expected to use the franchise tag on Jackson, meaning the corner is expected to hit free agency.
The franchise tag for corners is expected to be just north of $17 million in 2022.
Jackson is a ball-hawking corner who has shined in both man and zone coverage. The 26-year-old is one of the top man-coverage corners in the NFL and should have a sizable market with teams in constant need at the position.
In four years in New England, Jackson netted a whopping 25 interceptions in four seasons after going undrafted, tied for the most INTs in a player's first four NFL seasons since the 1970 merger with Lester Hayes and Everson Walls. Since 2019, Jackson has allowed a 46.3 passer rating in coverage, the lowest in the NFL among players with at least 100 targets. No other player has allowed a passer rating under 60.0 in that span, per Pro Football Focus.
Jackson has at least eight interceptions in each of the last two seasons and led the NFL with 23 passes defensed in 2021.
With numerous teams owning a boatload of cap space and the ever-present need for corners, Jackson could have a lucrative market come March 16. It's possible that a bidding war could allow the undrafted player to become the highest-paid corner in the NFL (Jalen Ramsey currently holds that honor at $20 million per season).
While it's semi-surprising that the Patriots would let a talented corner hit the open market, it's Bill Belichick's modus operandi. Given that the franchise tag would have hindered the club's flexibility this offseason, the Pats will allow Jackson to test the market with the possibility of matching the deal if it doesn't get out of control. If the bidding gets too high, Belichick and the Pats usually bow out.