Bears Named Prime Contender to Sign Patriots’ Pro Bowl Defender

J.C. Jackson

Getty J.C. Jackson of the New England Patriots is expected to be one of the hottest free agent prospects in the NFL this offseason.

Count cornerback as one of the primary needs for the Chicago Bears heading into the offseason.

The Bears could really use a solid corner opposite Jaylon Johnson, who has established himself as one of the team’s best defensive building blocks in his first two seasons. But after releasing All-Pro Kyle Fuller in spring of 2021, Chicago hasn’t found a near-suitable replacement.

Ben Rolfe of Pro Football Network thinks that nabbing one of the best play-making corners in the NFL opposite Johnson could be a good thing for the Bears on both sides of the ball, and he has the player in mind: current New England Patriots Pro Bowl corner J.C. Jackson.

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Jackson & Johnson Would Be an Impressive Duo

The Bears were ranked 27th in the league in scoring offense (18.3 points per game) and 22nd in scoring defense (23.9 points a game) during the regular season, and improvement on both sides of the ball will be necessary if they ever want to become a legitimate contender again.

Here’s why Rolfe thinks the Bears might want to go after Jackson, who he says will make them better on both offense and defense:

The best Bears teams through the ages have been built through their defense. Right now, their defense is fine but lacks that element that would terrify opposing offenses coming into Soldier Field. In 2021, the Bears had as many interceptions (8) as Jackson had by himself. Meanwhile, they allowed 31 passing touchdowns, which ranked 26th. With Robert Quinn, Khalil Mack returning from injury, combined with Jackson on the backend, the Bears’ defense would become one of the most threatening around the NFL. The problem Chicago has is that they need to invest significantly in their offense, especially their offensive line. However, the money spent on Jackson would certainly have ramifications to help the offense. If they can tighten up on the other side and become a top-10 scoring defense, it lowers the pressure on the offense to make things happen on every drive.

Rolfe makes some good points. With quarterback Justin Fields entering his second year in 2022, it will be crucial for Chicago to make things as easy as possible for him after an inconsistent rookie campaign.

Pairing Jackson with Johnson would also give the Bears’ secondary a formidable one-two punch that would make the jobs of opposing quarterbacks and wideouts extremely difficult.

The 26-year-old Patriots corner led the league in passes defended this season (23) and he finished with 58 total tackles (44 solo, two for loss), a forced fumble, eight interceptions and a defensive score. Opposing QBs had a measly 47.8 passer rating when throwing his way, so he would be a definite asset for the Bears. But can they afford him?

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What Kind of Salary Will Jackson Be Commanding?

Jackson is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he’s currently ranked 6th overall in PFF’s 2022 NFL free agency rankings. PFF has him projected to land a four-year, $72 million ($18 million per year, $56 million total guaranteed) deal this offseason, and plenty of teams will be interested in his services.

His journey as a pro is an impressive one. He signed with the Pats as as undrafted free agent in 2018, and his game has gotten better every year since. The Patriots could slap the franchise tag on him, which would be somewhere in the $17-$18 million range, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Per Over the Cap, Chicago has $39,433,443 in cap space, but that number will change this spring when players are released and/or signed. The Bears could throw $18 million a year at Jackson, but it wouldn’t leave them much room to address other pressing needs like offensive line — which Fields also needs in order to take his game to the next level. Thus, unless they let go of several hefty veteran contracts, the Bears should focus on o-line before making an offer to Jackson or any high-priced defensive talent.

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