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J.C. Jackson ultimately received limited interest, zero offers

Patriots coach Bill Belichick saw his team's big spending in free agency as a way of averaging out after previous years of being frugal.

When the Patriots gave cornerback J.C. Jackson a contract offer that would have qualified New England for a second-round pick if someone else had signed Jackson to an offer sheet the Patriots didn’t match, some thought that an offer sheet was indeed in the offing. Instead, the run continues -- now 10 years and counting -- of no restricted free agent with a second-round tender signing an offer sheet.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jackson’s camp contacted every team in the league in an effort to get an offer sheet. No one would do it. Thus, he signed the tender.

There’s a distinct sense in some circles that teams simply won’t do it as a courtesy. Basically, the position from some teams in situations like this is, “We don’t go after theirs, they don’t go after ours.”

Teams also place extreme significance on second-round picks. Despite the bust rate in rounds one and two, plenty stars are usually drafted in rounds three and beyond. Every second-round pick that wasn’t used could have been that star player.

Jackson, we’re told, would have seriously considered any offer that exceeded his one-year, $3.384 million tender in New England. If someone had signed him to a one-year deal and if he’d left in 2022 as an unrestricted free agent, the team could have received a compensatory pick in 2023 -- possibly a third-rounder. Teams still didn’t want to give up a second-round pick in 2021, even for a player like Jackson.

And, yes, it’s potentially collusion for teams to behave this way. Good luck proving it, however. Indeed, nothing stops 32 teams from independently deciding not to exercise the ability to promote player moment under the labor deal. Absent something more than coincidence in the outcome, it would be hard to show the existence of an agreement among six or more teams to not sign restricted free agents with second-round tenders to offer sheets.

Regardless, it’s never happened in the decade since the second-round tender was created.