The New England Patriots answered one of its biggest offseason questions on Friday by signing restricted free-agent J.C. Jackson to his tender deal. The move may open the possibilities for a huge trade.
Jackson’s nine interceptions in 2020 were second to the Miami Dolphins’ Xavien Howard’s 10 for the NFL lead in that category. Over the first three seasons of Jackson’s career, he’s had 17 interceptions.
With questions looming about the long-term standing of former Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, it would seem the Patriots might be eager to lock up Jackson, who is only 25, for multiple years.
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If the Patriots are planning to trade Gilmore, as has been rumored for months, that might be the move. However, explaining the reasoning behind signing Jackson to his RFA tender, NBC Sports’ Phil A. Perry and Tom Curran discussed another approach.
The duo discussed why the Patriots might be open to trading Jackson rather than Gilmore. Perry suggests perhaps a third and sixth-round pick might be enough to get the Patriots to part ways with Jackson. The terms of the new tender, as Perry explained, frees the Patriots up to move Jackson for any return less than a second-round pick.
Curran compared Jackson to former Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. The comparison was partially favorable and limiting.
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While he acknowledges Jackson is a “ballhawk,” he also says that the young corner’s stature (listed at 6’1″ 198 pounds) suggests there are some limitations that may prevent him from being a shutdown player at his position. Here is a look at the segment:
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) April 16, 2021
Jackson Struggled as the No. 1 Corner in 2020
After Gilmore’s injury, Jackson had some issues in coverage when forced to take on the opponent’s top receivers. Gilmore missed both games against Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills.
With Jackson in primary coverage against the Bills’ explosive star, Diggs compiled 15 receptions for 237 yards and three touchdowns. It was an incredibly lopsided matchup in Week 16 when Diggs caught nine balls for 145 yards and all three of his scores.
Diggs is unique, so there might be a bit of forgiveness in that regard for Jackson. However, the New York Jets’ Breshad Perriman lit Jackson up for eight receptions, 185 yards, and two TDs in their two meetings too.
The games against Perriman and Diggs accounted for four of the five contests Gilmore missed. That’s something the Patriots have to consider as they look toward the future with Jackson. He would appear to be a guy who is at his best with a more physical corner on the opposite side, which allows him to chase picks.
Perhaps Gilmore Could Still Be on the Move
The Patriots might still be wise to trade Gilmore for a package of draft picks too. If New England keeps their No. 15 pick, they will have ample opportunity to grab one of the top guys at corner in the first round.
South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II, and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley are just three possibilities. If they moved both Gilmore and Jackson, they would create an attractive set of draft picks that could help to solidify the franchise for years to come.