The New England Patriots‘ J.C. Jackson was second in the NFL in interceptions in 2020. He’s only 25 years old and appears to have the best years of his career ahead of him.
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However, according to a recent Bleacher Report article by Maurice Moton, which cites NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Jackson is one of the five players in the NFL most likely to be traded during the 2021 Draft.
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Jackson Signed a Tender, But Could Still Be Traded
Jackson has signed his tender, which will pay him more than $3 million in 2021. The tender locks Jackson in for the upcoming season, but it doesn’t guarantee he’ll be on the Patriots’ roster. Rapoport explains:
This is not the end of the story because while this means he’s not going to sign the an offer sheet, or a restricted free agent offer sheet with anyone, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to be on the team next year. What the team could do, and we saw this with Malcolm Butler with the Patriots several years back, is they could offer a lower draft pick than a second-rounder to potentially trade for JC Jackson. A trade that would also come with a contract extension. I would expect that at some point to come up in conversations from other teams.
Here is a look at the entire segment featuring Rapoport’s comments:
From NFL Now: #Patriots CB JC Jackson has signed his RFA tender, but that doesn’t mean he’ll definitely be on the roster for the 2021 season. Plenty of questions still in the secondary… pic.twitter.com/FdlhxFiOf6
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 16, 2021
Because of Jackson’s age, he could be a hot commodity for teams in the market for a cornerback. The Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and a few other teams might fit into that category.
Why Would the Patriots Give Up on Jackson?
Gilmore, who, like Rapoport mentioned, is still an excellent player. Despite his injuries and perhaps a slight step backward in 2020, Gilmore remains one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He’s just two years removed from his Defensive Player of the Year performance in 2019.
He’ll be 31 toward the end of the season and due a raise from his $7 million salary for 2021, but the Patriots could turn back to Gilmore as their No. 1 corner, draft a player at that position at No. 15, or somewhere in the first three rounds to fill the depth issue.
Meanwhile, they still have Myles Bryant and Johnathon Jones to give reps to at corner. Jackson had the high interception total in 2020, but he wasn’t at his best when forced to play No. 1 corner. He was lit up by Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs on two occasions and torched by the New York Jets Breshad Perriman in their two clashes.
Gilmore missed five games, and you could make the argument Jackson looked like less than a shutdown corner in 80% of those contests. If the Patriots believe he has hit his ceiling, they may gladly accept a third-round pick for his services.
Remember this in the event the Patriots trade Jackson on draft day.