Jets Expected to Pass on No. 1 CB in Free Agency, Target Veteran: Report

J.C. Jackson

Getty New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson celebrates with teammates on October 24, 2021.

The most polarizing name in New York Jets fan circles in recent weeks has been free-agent cornerback J.C. Jackson.

The New England Patriots breakout star is expected to hit the open market according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport and multiple sources around the league. He’s also expected to cash in on an enormous new deal that could exceed $20 million per year.

Jets fans appear torn on pursuing the talented — and expensive — ball-hawk, but a recent report could end this debate once and for all as we approach NFL free agency.

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‘Not so Sure the Jets Will Be Heavily Involved’ on Jackson

In a recent NFL combine roundup from NYJ beat reporter Connor Hughes of The Athletic, the journalist revealed some juicy information from his chats with team sources this week.

One of the biggest bombshells pertained to Jackson. He wrote:

This coaching staff believes there are some players who, for whatever reason, are always around the football, and more times than others, take it away. Statistically, New England’s J.C. Jackson fits that bill. He’s intercepted 22 passes over the last three years and most believe he’ll hit the open market. While this seems like a match made in heaven, after talking to many at the combine, I’m not so sure the Jets will be heavily involved.

Hughes explained why the Jets might be ‘out’ on the No. 1 free-agent CB in the open.

“Maybe the Jets’ improved competitiveness at the end of the 2021 season changed things, but I’d be surprised if Douglas spent wildly this offseason,” he reported. “It’s going to be the same business as usual: Avoid B-list big names who receive A-list money, and be aggressive where there is value. Top-tier players at premier positions like quarterback, pass rusher, cornerback and left tackle seldom hit free agency… Those who are there are there for a reason (personality red flags, health, etc.).”

This jives with head coach Robert Saleh’s recent quote about whether or not this is a “big offseason” for the franchise.

He stated boldly: “Every offseason is unique to its own. I think what you see around the league is when people put a big emphasis on one offseason over the other you see a lot of panic buying, you see panic selling. You see a lot of odd moves that actually put organizations deeper into a hole.”

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Jets Interested in 1 of 2 Veteran Acquisitions

If not Jackson, then who? Hughes had a potential answer that involved two veteran targets.

“Stephon Gilmore makes a lot of sense,” the beat reporter noted. “He’d be the ‘perfect fit,’ one source said, as the veteran could boost the Jets’ defense much like Richard Sherman did for the [San Francisco] 49ers in 2018 and 2019. There are just two concerns with Gilmore: Will the [Carolina] Panthers let him go, and is he willing to play for a team whose ceiling is competing to be in the discussion for the playoffs? If he prefers a winner, the Jets might have to make up some ground financially.”

People forget that Gilmore is just two years removed from winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019. Despite a slight decline due to nagging injuries, he still made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons with a 79.4 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021.

This type of signing would bring experience and professionalism to a young secondary that needs a leader. It would also be less of a long-term commitment.

The second name from Hughes was one we’ve mentioned in the past, New York Giants trade candidate James Bradberry.

The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweeted that the “consensus trade value for James Bradberry is a third-round pick.” The Jets do have one of those in 2022, and also have enough cap space to afford the soon-to-be 29-year old’s $13.4 million base salary.

As always, an immediate extension could drive down Bradberry’s cap number a bit if the Jets wanted to lock him up for a few seasons.

uSTADIUM confirmed the availability of the Giants’ consistent CB1. “Bradberry is one of the hotter names on the trade market right now. Seems like a certainty he’ll be dealt. The Giants should be able to get a 3rd round pick back,” the sports news site reiterated.

Two other free-agent names that make sense are Carlton Davis and Levi Wallace. Different analysts have linked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB to New York and the Buffalo Bills rival is a personal favorite if you’re looking for an affordable system defender at the position.

The final big name is potential first-round pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. uSTADIUM included Gardner as one of the Jets’ top four prospects based on conversations they had at the combine.

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