The New England Patriots addressed their biggest question mark on Friday when they re-signed quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract worth up to a reported $14 million.
While this move fills a huge hole, the Patriots still have their work cut out for them this offseason with regards to recruiting upper echelon free agents and trying to convince players on expiring deals to stick around for another year.
When it comes to the latter, cornerback JC Jackson is an interesting situation, as he is one of a few players on the roster who qualifies as a restricted free agent.
The Patriots could choose to extend the 25-year-old star, but logic points to them placing a first-round tender on him before anything.
After all, the NFL recently finalized its 2021 restrict free agent tender numbers and the total sum for a first-rounder is just $4.76 million.
That means the Patriots can keep one of the most prolific playmaking cornerbacks in the league at a ridiculous price for next year.
The Patriots placing a first-round tender on JC Jackson seems like a no-brainer.
The Patriots putting a first-round tender on Jackson means they would have the right to match any offer he received from another team, or simply accept a first-round pick and let him go. While a $4.76 million salary wouldn’t come close to matching the three-year pro’s overall worth, it would serve as a significant raise compared to his salary in previous seasons.
Doing so would also bide the Patriots time in giving Jackson an extension, which he undoubtedly deserves after compiling 100 tackles, 17 interceptions and 30 passes defended, to go with a stellar 72.6 coverage grade, over his first three NFL seasons. He’s allowed the lowest passer rating in single coverage (36.6) of any CB in the league since 2019.
Having to commit less than $5 million to Jackson for next season means New England could focus all of their attention on free agency, and if their trade for Trent Brown and signing of Newton was any indication, they plan on being big-time spenders once things open up next week.
The chances of another team coughing up another first-round pick for Jackson are extremely unlikely, so there’s really no reason for the Patriots not to take advantage of this opportunity.
Even if a team steps up to the plate, New England shouldn’t have any qualms matching a contract offer. We all know how much the franchise values a cornerback who can dominate in man-to-man coverage, and Jackson is quite simply already one of the best in the business in that department.
We’d love Jackson getting locked up long term as much as the next guy, but placing a first-round tender on him is unquestionably the smart financial move for the Patriots. Even so, it doesn’t rule out a potential extension getting done in the future.