The New England Patriots may be stingy when it comes to money, but they won’t be when it comes to cornerback J.C. Jackson.
As the team’s top defensive player braces to hit the free agency market, the question is, how much will the 26-year-old cornerback be paid? According to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, Jackson should get paid a contract similar to that of the New Orleans Saints’ Marshon Lattimore — $19.4 million average, over $68 million in guarantees and five years up to $100 million in incentives.
“Jackson is putting to rest any questions about whether he could assume No. 1 cornerback duties in New England raised by Stephon Gilmore’s early season departure to the Panthers in a trade,” says Corry. “The 2018 undrafted free agent, who is playing under a $3.384 million restricted free agent tender, was named November’s AFC Defensive Player of the Month.
Jackson is the NFL’s premier ballhawk. He is second in league this season with seven interceptions. Jackson has the NFL’s most interceptions since the start of the 2019 season with 21.
A franchise tag could be on the horizon, although salary cap space will be at much more of a premium than during this year’s free agency spending spree. Jackson’s franchise’s tag projects to $17.287 million (8.303% of the $208.2 million 2022 salary cap). The Patriots have $185.73 million in 2022 cap commitments with 47 players under contract and just over $3 million of unused 2021 cap space that can be carried over to the 2022 league year, according to NFLPA data. Under offseason accounting rules, only the top 51 salaries (i.e.; cap numbers) matter.”
For perspective, the Patriots’ highest-paid player during the 2021 season is Dont’a Hightower at a cap hit of just under $12.4 million. Jackson would become New England’s highest-paid player by a landfall at roughly $20 million per season. Barring a bigger deal on the market for another cornerback, Jackson would become the highest-paid corner in the league (the Los Angeles Rams’ Jalen Ramsey is currently the highest-paid at $20 million per season).
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How J.C.Jackson Differs From Stephon Gilmore
People may be quick to point the comparisons between ex-Patriot Stephon Gilmore’s contract situation and Jackson’s. However, the difference between the two is very noticeable.
Gilmore may have been a former Defensive Player of the Year — Jackson is not — but he was on the verge of turning 31 years old when he held out for a better deal with the Patriots during training camp. Furthermore, he was coming off of a serious torn quad injury and was limited to just 11 games during the 2020 season. That quad injury lingered into the 2021 season and he didn’t debut until Week 8 after being traded to the Carolina Panthers.
In the case of Jackson, he may not have hit his peak — and he’s almost five years younger than Gilmore was when he held out for a better contract. Generally speaking, the Patriots don’t keep players around for too long past the age of 30. Jackson is not even close to reaching that age.
Jackson’s Play Speaks for Itself
According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson’s 77.0 grade in coverage ranks him 16th among all corners with at least 100 snaps and his reception percentage of 51.8 ranks him 10th among all players at the same position with at least 100 snaps.
Jackson is the real deal. Expect the Patriots to break out the bank for arguably the top corner in the league.