Before the start of the NFL’s new league year last Wednesday, teams had to make decisions on their restricted and exclusive-rights free agents. The New England Patriots had three of those: cornerback J.C. Jackson fell into the first category, with fullback Jakob Johnson and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo in the second.
While Adeboyejo was not tendered and instead let go into free agency, both Jackson and Johnson were retained. The defensive back was given the second-round tender, while the latter received the exclusive-rights tender.
On Thursday, Johnson officially put his signature under the offer sheet. As a result, he will be back in New England while playing on a one-year, $850,000 contract.
The Patriots’ decision to extend an offer sheet in the first place did not come as a surprise. The former International Pathway Program participant took a sizable leap in his second year with the team while taking over the job previously held by fellow fullback James Develin.
All in all, Johnson appeared in 16 games over the course of the 2020 season and played a prominent role as a lead blocker in New England’s run-centric offensive attack. He also was a regular contributor on special teams.
The 26-year-old is not guaranteed a spot on New England’s roster this fall despite signing his tender sheet now, but he will at the very least get a chance to defend his job against veteran fullback Danny Vitale — returning off his one-year Coronavirus opt-out — and H-back/tight end Dalton Keene. When it comes to experience in the system, Johnson should be seen as the favorite to emerge victoriously.
As for J.C. Jackson, meanwhile, his status remains undecided at this point. Teams still have until April 23rd to potentially sign him to an offer sheet of their own, which would open a five-day window for the Patriots to either match or let him go in return for a second-round selection next year.
Unless signed to a contract extension at one point over the next year, Johnson is scheduled to be in a similar situation as Jackson in 2022. After having entered exclusive-rights free agency this offseason — meaning that only New England was able to extend an offer — the German-born fullback is set to enter restricted free agency next spring.