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NFL Rumors: Patriots' J.C. Jackson Interests 49ers, Bengals, More in Free Agency

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMarch 9, 2022

Justin Casterline/Getty Images

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson is reportedly in line to "set the market in a big way" as he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent when the new NFL league year begins March 16.

Boardroom's Jordan Schultz reported Tuesday the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers are among the teams showing interest in the 2021 Pro Bowl selection.

Jackson has quickly established himself as one of the NFL's premier ball hawks since the Pats signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He's tallied 25 interceptions in 62 career games, including 17 picks over the past two seasons.

The 26-year-old Florida native is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he recorded 58 total tackles, 23 passes defended, eight interceptions, one forced fumble and one touchdown while playing in all 17 regular-season games for New England.

Along with his strong baseline numbers, he also received a solid 82.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, so the widespread interest doesn't come as a surprise.

For now, it sounds like the Patriots are prepared to let him hit the free-agent market. He said in late February the team hadn't reached out about a potential contract extension, and the front office didn't use the franchise tag on him before Tuesday's deadline.

"I guess they feel like they don't need me," Jackson told Phil Perry on NBC Sports Boston last month. "I guess I can't be that important to them. I know I am, but they're not showing me."

New England's leadership hasn't commented on its willingness to let a key part of a secondary that ranked second against the pass (187.1 yards allowed per game) to leave, but it sounds like Jackson shouldn't have much trouble landing a lucrative contract.

Here's a look at the marks he'd have to surpasses to become the league's top-paid corner, per Spotrac:

  • 2022 Total Cash: Marshon Lattimore (Saints): $24.1 million
  • 2022 Base Salary: Darius Slay (Eagles): $16 million
  • Total Contract Value: Jalen Ramsey (Rams): $100 million
  • Average Salary: Ramsey: $20 million
  • Guaranteed Money: Ramsey: $43.7 million

Of the teams listed by Schultz with interest, the Bengals are the most intriguing fit on the surface after their appearance in Super Bowl LVI.

They came within one win of a championship despite a 26th-ranked pass defense (248.4) that relied far too heavily on Eli Apple.

Adding Jackson to the secondary would give Cincinnati a major boost in its effort to remain a top-tier contender in the loaded AFC.

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