Tight against the salary cap, the New England Patriots had to watch J.C. Jackson leave in free agency last March. The Pro Bowl cornerback signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers — leaving New England without its No. 1 cornerback from a year ago.
Fast forward to the 2023 offseason, however, and the Chargers’ investment is being analyzed critically. Jackson, after all, appeared in just five up-and-down games for his new team before suffering a season-ending patellar injury.
The injury put an unfortunate end to what was up to that point a disappointing season for Jackson — one that has now landed him on Pro Football Focus’ list of the worst free agency signings of 2022:
We’re not in the business of knocking players for getting injured, as it’s an unfortunate reality of the NFL and out of anyone’s control. That’s not what we’re doing here, as we had some game film to pull from before Jackson was lost for the season, and it wasn’t pretty. The Chargers perhaps missing the fact Jackson had a previous ankle injury that required surgery before the season even began during the team physical is a whole other thing we won’t get into, but it certainly is not Jackson’s fault either.
Jackson’s 28.1 coverage grade was the lowest of any cornerback with at least 50 coverage snaps on the season — he logged 165 through Week 7 — and he didn’t have a single game grade reach 45.0. Jackson allowed an explosive reception on 6.0% of his coverage snaps, the highest rate of any cornerback with at least 100 snaps played on the year, and was giving up 2.48 yards per coverage snap — over half a yard more than the next player.
The hope here has to be that Jackson was playing through injury and will look more like his old self once fully healthy.
Jackson earned himself the nickname “Mr. INT” during his four seasons in New England. The Chargers will need him to return to his game-changing form in 2023 in order for their contract to eventually hold up against the scrutiny.