One of the biggest questions for the New England Patriots this offseason is whether or not they will be able to keep cornerback J.C. Jackson from leaving in free agency. One of the tools the team has at its disposal is the franchise tag: New England has until March 8 to use it and keep Jackson from hitting the open market.
While that seems to be a realistic outcome, one insider believes that the team will not employ the tag at an expected cost of $17.3 million. ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss recently published a prediction that Jackson will not get tagged:
The window for teams to assign the franchise tag on players has opened and extends to March 8, with cornerback J.C. Jackson the likely only candidate to strongly consider in New England. A tag would be a projected $17.3 million for the 2022 season. Unless the Patriots believe they have a strong tag-and-trade possibility, I rate the odds of them tagging Jackson as low.
The Patriots not tagging Jackson would leave them with two options. They either re-sign Jackson to a long-term deal before or after free agency, or watch him leave to the highest bidder once on the open market.
While the latter approach would likely yield a compensatory third-round draft choice next offseason, losing Jackson would be a blow to New England’s defense. Not only is he one of the better cornerbacks in football and the NFL’s premier ballhawk since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2018, their cornerback position as a whole is also dubious behind him and fellow starters Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones.