When J.C. Jackson arrived in the NFL, he was an under-the-radar rookie fighting to make the New England Patriots’ roster. Four years later, he leaves New England as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL — and one of its highest paid.
Jackson will sign a five-year, $82.5 million free agency deal with the Los Angeles Chargers as soon as free agency officially begins, opening up a new chapter in what has been a pretty remarkable career so far.
Despite joining the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson left his mark on the team’s secondary the last four seasons. Appearing in a combined 67 regular season and playoff contests, he went from role player, to starter, to number one cornerback, to historically productive ballhawk.
Needless to say that Jackson has fond memories of his time in New England, even after leaving the club.
“It was a great experience,” the 26-year-old told NBC Sports’ Phil Perry on Monday. “Learned a lot. Got a chance to win a Super Bowl. Got to play with great players, play for one of the best coaches ever in Coach [Bill] Belichick. I want to thank them for everything they did for me.”
The Patriots gave Jackson a chance, and he ran with it. Taking advantage of his opportunities along the way allowed the Maryland product to to grow from draft day afterthought into an elite cornerback, and no season was a better example of that than 2021.
With former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore still recovering from a season-ending hip injury suffered the previous year, Jackson took over as New England’s CB1 to start the season. He played at an impressive level even with the veteran absent (and later traded to Carolina), and earned his first Pro Bowl nomination to cap off the season.
Jackson did all that while auditioning for a new contract, betting on himself when declining to sign the Patriots’ extension offers. According to Jackson, one of those came during the regular season; another offer was made around the Scouting Combine.
However, Jackson wanted to taste free agency and see how the market valued him. Apparently, it thought highly of what he had to offer.
As for his new home, Jackson believes that he and the Chargers can make some noise.
“Love L.A. Love Cali,” he told NBC Sports. “Not only that, the defense, I think I can add some value to that defense. That’s a stacked group, and imagine me [there] ... It’s going to be scary.”