J.C. Jackson knows this is his time to cash in. He's just wondering whether or not it'll be with the Patriots.
Jackson told NBC Sports Boston on Tuesday that the Patriots have not been in touch with him about a new contract since the end of the season.
"I guess they feel like they don't need me," Jackson said. "I guess I can't be that important to them. I know I am, but they're not showing me."
Tuesday marked the first day NFL clubs can place the franchise tag on players. The tag for corners is estimated to pay a guaranteed one-year salary of about $17 million in 2022.
Jackson said he would be open to playing on the tag should the Patriots go that route.
"I love the game," he said. "If they tag me, I'm gonna go out there and play."
NFL clubs have until March 8 to designate players with the franchise or transition tags. While Jackson acknowledged he would play on the tag, his goal is to land with a team where he knows he'll have the opportunity to spend the next four or five years.
What franchise tag history with the Patriots suggests for J.C. Jackson
Jackson said that the Patriots approached him about a contract extension during the 2021 season. Though a deal wasn't done at the time, Jackson said that there were no hard feelings on his end about the result.
"It was all positive things," he said. "I wanted to focus on ball at the time. I wanted to finish the season the right way. I didn't really come back to them on it."
Jackson played the 2021 season on a second-round tender signed last offseason worth $3.38 million. As an undrafted rookie, Jackson spent the first three years of his career playing on base salaries of $480,000 (2018), $570,000 (2019) and $750,000 (2020).
Jackson made the Pro Bowl and was named a Second-Team All-Pro for his performance in 2021. He finished the season second in the NFL with eight interceptions. No player has more picks since 2018 than Jackson (25).
Back in early October, one AFC executive told NBC Sports Boston that Jackson could be paid as a top-five corner this offseason.
"Twenty-five years old," the executive said. "As productive as anyone."
A contract in the $18 million per year range would slot him in ahead of Bills corner Tre'Davious White ($17.3 million per season) and just behind Saints corner Marshon Lattimore ($19.4 million) and Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey ($19.5 million). The market-setting contract at corner right now is the five-year, $100 million deal Jalen Ramsey inked with the Rams.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson was third among NFL corners in terms of quarterback rating allowed (52.4).
Next Pats Podcast: Mike Tannenbaum on J.C. Jackson: Patriots “GOTTA keep him” | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube
Former Jets general manager and longtime NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum told "The Next Pats" Podcast last week that the Patriots should find the money to keep Jackson. After spending record amounts last offseason, the Patriots are currently scheduled to be in the bottom half of the league in available cap space.
"You gotta keep him," Tannenbaum said. "He turns the ball over. You pay a premium for that. Obviously, they let Stephon Gilmore go. He can play elite man-to-man, he has good feet. But more importantly, he has ball skills and to me, that's very important as you talk about who to pay and who not to pay."
Indications are that the Patriots would like to keep Jackson, and they have two weeks to determine whether or not they would like to use the franchise tag. If they opt to use the tag, the Patriots could then buy themselves some time into the new league year (which begins March 16) to negotiate a long-term deal with Jackson.
Should Jackson get to the open market, he's expected to be the highest-paid free-agent corner this offseason, thanks in part to the dearth of in-their-prime stars available. Former teammate Stephon Gilmore and Tampa Bay's Carlton Davis may be the next most coveted corner options on the market.
"Whatever happens happens," Jackson said. "I'm taking it day by day. But it's time for me to get paid. It's time to get Mr. INT paid."