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#pounditFriday, August 12, 2022

Report: Top Patriots player expected to hit free agency

Bill Belichick looks on from the sideline

The New England Patriots could be in danger of losing one of their best players this offseason, as cornerback JC Jackson appears to be headed for free agency.

The Patriots are not expected to use the franchise tag on Jackson, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. That increases the likelihood that he will sign with another team.

Jackson is New England’s best cornerback and arguably the top defensive back of the upcoming free agent class. The franchise tag for cornerbacks is around $17 million, and that is obviously a number the Patriots are not comfortable with. They could still try to re-sign Jackson, but Bill Belichick almost never gets into bidding wars for star players in free agency.

Jackson has been an interception machine with 25 picks in his first four NFL seasons. The 26-year-old led the NFL with 23 passes defended in 2021, and his eight interceptions were second in the league behind only Trevon Diggs.

If Jackson does become a free agent, he will command top dollar. That would mean an annual salary of around $19 or $20 million. The Patriots almost certainly are not going to give him that. Jackson recently expressed frustration with the communication he has had with the Patriots.

Jackson took over as the Patriots’ top cornerback when Stephon Gilmore got hurt and was then traded. Like Malcolm Butler before him, Jackson went undrafted only to be signed by the Patriots and turned into a star. Belichick probably feels he can develop another cornerback the same way without making the massive financial commitment.

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