Patriots

Next Pats Podcast: What will J.C. Jackson's market look like in free agency?

Patriots

New England Patriots star J.C. Jackson has blossomed into one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL, and with free agency on the horizon, he's going to get a massive raise soon.

Jackson is tied for second in the league with five interceptions entering Week 10. He picked off two passes in last week's win over the Carolina Panthers, and he returned one of them 88 yards for a touchdown. Jackson's 22 interceptions since the start of the 2018 season are the most of any player during that span.

So, what will the market look like for Jackson as a free agent? On the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry, salary cap analyst Brad Spielberger gave his take.

Historical perspective on J.C. Jackson's career INT total is wild

"I think (Jackson's) situation is fascinating because the narrative around him seems to swing back and forth from, he's now the guy to he just makes a lot of plays on the ball and so he gets inflated (numbers) because of those interceptions. But the key is it's not a strong class in free agency at cornerback," Spielberger said.

"I think J.C. Jackson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Carlton Davis are really the only premier young guys. Also, Davis does play a ton of zone in Tampa, but they've shown they like to move him around and he'll follow a team's No. 1 wide receiver at times. So there are man principles of his play. Hypothetically, if Davis gets franchise tagged, I think J.C. Jackson is the best young cornerback and arguably the only young cornerback you'd trust to play man coverage and be able to have those principles, which tends to get paid more on the open market because it's a rarer skill set."

 

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How much could Jackson earn per season on his next deal?

"I put a projection for him at around $15 million per year, and it's a big number," Spielberger said. "And then he had a pick-6 and another interception, to boost his numbers since 2019. As much as PFF and a lot of these analytics sites try to push that you shouldn't pay for stats like that, some general managers can't help themselves and those traditional statistics do matter."

The Patriots don't have a player currently on the roster capable of filling Jackson's role if he leaves in free agency next offseason, especially after they traded veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers last month.

Jackson is going to get paid, and his value will only increase if he keeps giving performances like Sunday's in Carolina.

Also in this episode: Will the Patriots be in a position to give J.C. the franchise tag? Do the numbers prove that Jackson can be a No. 1 corner? And Spielberger explains why he still thinks Bill Belichick is the greatest general manager of all-time.