Following the surprising trade of Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, there's little question who the top cornerback is for the New England Patriots for the remainder of 2021: J.C. Jackson.
Originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson has amassed 19 interceptions over his first 50 games for the Patriots. With his contract set to expire at season's end, Phil Perry takes a look at whether or not Jackson, who turns 26 next month, is worth a contract near the top of the market in free agency.
Citing the deals recently signed by Tre'Davious White with the Buffalo Bills and Byron Jones with the Miami Dolphins, Perry wonders whether or not Jackson is worth a commitment of nearly $17 million per season on a long-term deal.
"If they just let him go, there's not a lot of options behind J.C. Jackson for a team that's always wanted a No. 1 corner," Perry said. "But if you pay him, do you feel like you're getting a good return on that investment?"
Perry offers some insight into why the Patriots waited so long to trade Gilmore, who is also in the final year of his contract, before he's joined by former New England cornerback Darius Butler to provide some insight into both players.
Given Gilmore is 31, were the Patriots in the wrong to not give him an extension?
"I can't really fault Bill [Belichick] for that at this point," Butler said. "He went out and spent money on Jalen Mills; I assume they'll spend the right amount of money on J.C. Jackson to lock him up."
In addition to talking everything about the cornerback, Butler chimes in on what it's like to be in the locker room when a trade the magnitude of the Gilmore deal happens.
Butler, who spent the first two seasons of a nine-year NFL career in Foxboro, was on hand for both the Richard Seymour and Randy Moss shockers in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Having someone with credibility making such trades, like Bill Belichick, helps keeps things running smoothly, Butler said.
"If you're in a different locker room with a different organization where there's not as much structure, not as much credibility with that guy calling the shots up top, that's when you can get a little dissension in the locker room," Butler said, adding that the presence of veterans like Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower and Matthew Slater is also a help.