The expectation within the NFL is that New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson is in line to receive a big contract in the near future.
According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, rival teams have "thought highly" of Jackson for quite some time and believe he will be rewarded when the time comes for him to get paid.
It isn't guaranteed the contract will come from the Pats, though, as Howe noted that the trade of Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers doesn't make it more likely New England will re-sign Jackson since they are "mutually exclusive situations."
Originally signed by New England as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson has developed into one of the NFL's top corners.
Even as only a part-time starter in his first two seasons, Jackson racked up a total of eight interceptions and 16 passes defended. He then came through with a breakout performance last season.
Starting a career-high 11 of the 16 games he appeared in, Jackson registered 40 tackles, 14 passes defended and nine interceptions, which ranked second only to Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard's 10 picks.
While Jackson was surprisingly not selected to the Pro Bowl, he cemented his status as a top-flight cornerback and entered 2021 with high expectations.
Gilmore began the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning Jackson was New England's No. 1 corner when the campaign started, and he has not disappointed with 22 tackles, two interceptions and five passes defended through five games.
The Patriots were seemingly so confident in Jackson in that role that they traded Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick.
Now the focus shifts toward whether New England will pay him like a shutdown corner much like it did with Gilmore previously.
Jackson is playing under a one-year, $3.384 million tender this season and can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
The Patriots signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million contract in 2017, and it is possible Jackson could get something similar this offseason, or the Pats could opt to place the franchise tag on him and delay the decision on a long-term deal.