With three weeks to go until the start of the NFL’s 2022 free agency period contract negotiations between the New England Patriots and their premiere free agency have yet to commence. According to NBC Sports’ Phil Perry, the Patriots and star cornerback J.C. Jackson have not talked about a possible extension since the end of the season.
Jackson, who is coming off the best year of his career and was voted to his first Pro Bowl, found some clear words about the current situation.
“I guess they feel like they don’t need me,” he said. “I guess I can’t be that important to them. I know I am, but they’re not showing me.”
Despite the lack of ongoing talks, the Patriots have apparently approached Jackson about a potential contract extension before. According to the 25-year-old, the two sides held some talks during the 2021 season.
No deal was reached at the time, but Jackson pointed out that on hard feelings are involved due to the lack of an agreement.
“It was all positive things. I wanted to focus on ball at the time. I wanted to finish the season the right way,” he said. “I didn’t really come back to them on it.”
Not negotiating with Jackson’s camp yet this offseason appears to be noteworthy, but that approach is actually not out of the ordinary for the Patriots. They typically take their time to get going, with the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis a key date on their timeline: it normally is the starting point for any contract talks with their class of free agents-to-be.
Jackson is therefore not in an unusual position, especially considering that New England has another ace up its sleeve as well: the franchise tag. The NFL’s franchise tag window opened on Tuesday, and Jackson is a realistic candidate to get tagged.
The tag number for cornerbacks is substantial — the latest estimates have it at around $17.3 million — but it would buy player and team more time to reach an agreement. Accordingly, Jackson is not generally opposed to playing on the tag.
“I love the game. If they tag me, I’m gonna go out there and play,” he said.
The Patriots have until Mar. 8 to make a decision about using the franchise tag, with free agency set to begin eight days later. If the past is any indication, however, they will also not rush into making that decision.
That said, keeping Jackson appears to be in the team’s best interest. A former undrafted rookie, he developed into the team’s number one cornerback and one of the best players in the NFL at his position. In 2021 alone he caught eight interceptions, bringing his career total to a league-best 25 since his arrival in 2018.
Along the way, Jackson remained a bargain for the team. Playing on rookie free agency contract as well as the second-round restricted free agent tender, his combined salary cap hit barely exceeds $5 million.
Needless to say that Jackson is looking for a major payday.
“Whatever happens happens. I’m taking it day by day. But it’s time for me to get paid,” he said. “It’s time to get Mr. INT paid.”