Patriots Star Likely to Be Franchise Tagged, Says Analyst

Getty Bill Belichick

The biggest decision the New England Patriots have to make this offseason revolves around second-team All-Pro cornerback JC Jackson. Will Bill Belichick find a way to retain him or allow him to walk as another NFL team swoops in to offer him the major contract he has earned.

One NFL analyst believes the Patriots will hold onto Jackson–at least for now. Grunt Talks’ Bobby Thompson thinks New England will use the franchise tag to keep Jackson on the roster for at least another year.

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Jackson has had nothing but strong seasons statistically since he came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He made his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team this year after he eight interceptions.

Jackson is about to get paid one way or another and the franchise tag would pay him handsomely, though the deal won’t come with the security of a long-term deal with far more money guaranteed.

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How Much Do NFL CBs With Franchise Tag Make?

According to Over the Cap, the franchise tag amount for cornerbacks in the NFL is projected to be a little over $17 million for the 2022 season. That’s a pretty good chunk of the Patriots’ projected cap space, which is right around $30 million, per Spotrac.

New England could always free up more money by cutting or trading players like N’Keal Harry, Jarrett Stidham, Gunner Olszewski and others. We’ll have to wait to see what New England does to prepare for free agency this offseason.

It would be a shock to see them spend as freely as they did last spring.

Is Jackson Worth Franchise Tag Money or Even a Big Contract?

The Patriots have to ask themselves if Jackson is truly worth paying such a handsome deal in the short or long term. It’s true, he does have 17 interceptions over the pat two seasons. That’s pretty amazing, and he had a 49.1% completion percentage against him, which is also stellar.

However, cornerbacks that teams pay at the top of the scale are supposed to succeed against the elite receivers in the league–and especially within their division. Unfortunately for Jackson, that hasn’t always been the case. He has struggled mightily against the Bills’ Stefon Diggs in their meetings over the past two years.

In 2020, Diggs hit Jackson up for nine catches for 145 yards with three touchdowns. In Week 16 of the 2021 season, Diggs registered seven catches for 85 yards with a touchdown against Jackson and the Patriots.

Still, to Jackson’s credit, he wants the matchup with Diggs. Per one of Jackson’s teammates, he was looking forward to a third shot at Diggs prior to Saturday’s debacle.

“This is exactly what he wants. He wouldn’t have it any other way,” Patriots safety Adrian Phillips said, per MassLive. “Whoever the top receiver in the league is, he wants to guard that person.” 

That’s admirable, but Diggs’ success against him has been troubling. On Saturday, Diggs didn’t light the Patriots up; he had three receptions for 60 yards and 0 TDs. He did have one 45-yard completion, but the Bills didn’t need a mammoth game from their star WR because so many of Buffalo’s weapons were clicking.

In any case, if the Patriots pay Jackson the big bucks, they had better be sure he is a true CB1.

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