Patriots

Jackson is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

J.C. Jackson could get a big pay day this offseason. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With Stephon Gilmore out of New England, cornerback J.C. Jackson seems like a prime candidate to get an extension considering the Patriots’ uncertainty at the position.

That might not be the case though, according to a top NFL insider.

In an interview on WEEI’s “Gresh & Keefe,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said he doesn’t think there’s a “great” chance the Patriots trade Jackson ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. But his guess on Jackson’s future with the team past this season is as good as any with Jackson set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

“I would say there is a possibility [of being traded],” Rapoport said. “I don’t consider it a great one because he’s a very good player, he’s on a cheap contract. And theoretically, the Patriots could keep him next year, too. Of all the scenarios you laid out, to me personally, I am not saying nothing can happen, but to me a long-term deal probably seems the least likely. But, a franchise tag is possible. The Patriots could end up keeping him. I don’t know that he’s definitely gone because he is a very good player and the quality of player to warrant a franchise tag.

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“I don’t know that the Patriots are really in the mindset of giving up really good, young, still relatively cheap players. If the season was lost and they definitely weren’t going anywhere, maybe. I just don’t quite get they are in that mode now.”

As Rapoport mentioned, there are multiple avenues the Patriots can take in approaching Jackson’s contract situation after the season. They could place the franchise tag on Jackson, which would give him a fully-guaranteed salary for a season based on what the average yearly salary is for the five-highest paid cornerbacks. In 2021, that number was slightly north of $15 million.

If the Patriots place the franchise tag on Jackson, they don’t necessarily have to keep him. They could try to move him in a trade for a player or pick. However, that could’ve happened this past offseason when the Patriots placed a second-round tender on Jackson, making him a restricted free agent. No team signed Jackson though, which would’ve given the Patriots a second-round pick.

Jackson, 25, appears to be in line to get a nice payday whenever the time comes. In 2020, he recorded nine interceptions, which was the second-most in the league, and he has three in seven games so far this season.

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If the Patriots do let Jackson walk after this season, they’ll still have five corners on their roster for 2022. Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, and Joejuan Williams are all under contract for next season, but none have really shown the potential be a No. 1 corner like Jackson. Jones has played in the slot and is out for the season with a shoulder injury while Williams has failed to get consistent playing time since the Patriots drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

They also have Justin Bethel and rookie Shaun Wade under contract. However, Bethel’s mostly been used as a special teams player and Wade has yet to play during the regular season.