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2022 NFL free agency: J.C. Jackson leaves Patriots to sign 5-year, $82.5 million contract with Chargers

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NFL: NOV 28 Titans at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The writing was already on the wall, and it will soon become official: as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, J.C. Jackson will leave the New England Patriots in free agency. The Pro Bowl cornerback will sign a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers that includes $40 million in guarantees.

Jackson, 26, originally joined the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2018. Since then, the Maryland product has appeared in a combined 67 regular season and playoff contests for New England — developing into one of the league’s best cornerbacks and a serious big-play machine.

No player in the NFL has intercepted as many passes since 2018 as Jackson, with the former UFA picking off 25 throws during his four-year career. His knack for the football earned him a starting role in the Patriots’ secondary late in Year 2, and eventually allowed him to take over as the team’s number one cornerback after Stephon Gilmore suffered a season-ending injury the previous year.

With Gilmore out to open the 2021 season and eventually traded to the Carolina Panthers, Jackson took the CB1 gig full-time. He did not disappoint, and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Appearing in all 18 of the Patriots’ games, Jackson surrendered 57 catches on 112 targets for 756 yards as well as three touchdowns. He also intercepted eight passes — second most in the NFL behind Trevon Diggs’ 11 — and scored his first career touchdown on a pick-six in Week 9 against Carolina.

Now, Mr. INT will take his talents elsewhere.

With Jackson gone, the Patriots are facing some major questions at the cornerback position. Their remaining group at the position consists of Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade and Justin Bethel.