New England Patriots starting cornerback J.C. Jackson will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the open market should Bill Belichick and the Patriots fail to reach an agreement with Jackson before mid-March. Jackson is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL and his game continues to reach new heights. Questions regarding Jackson's ability to thrive without Stephon Gilmore opposite him have often been raised, but Jackson quieted those baseless concerns by arguably experiencing the best season of his career in 2021. Jackson totaled a career-high 23 pass break-ups to go along with an elite eight interceptions. Jackson is the type of talent that simply eliminates one side of the field for opposing offenses. Quarterbacks are best served avoiding Jackson in coverage, as he possesses the ability to create a takeaway for his defense on any given play. Jackson is undeniably going to land an extremely lucrative contract. His representation will surely seek to make him the highest-paid cornerback in the league, and his resume warrants such treatment. Several teams would line up to award Jackson with such a contract should the Patriots decide to play hardball with his final price tag. We've identified three potential suitors for Jackson in free agency should he depart the Patriots.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERSThe Raiders qualify as a straightforward alternative destination for Jackson. Outside of New England, no regime knows Jackson better than the one now located in Vegas. The new general manager and head coaching combination of Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels collectively spent more than 20 seasons together in Foxboro, an illustrious period of time that covered Jackson's entire professional career up until this point. Ziegler especially played a hand in Jackson's recruitment. Ziegler served as New England's director of pro personnel when the Patriots identified Jackson as a diamond-in-the-rough undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2018. The Raiders must add a quality cornerback or two this offseason. The aging Casey Hayward Jr. is set to become a free agent and Ziegler should search for a younger replacement with more longevity in the cards. Nate Hobbs was a solid find, but the release (and whiff) of Damon Arnette puts the Raiders in a difficult spot. Vegas plays in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, and fielding a quality secondary is going to be an ever-important piece of the puzzle if they hope to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers for the next decade-plus. It wouldn't take long for the Raiders to zero in on Jackson in free agency.
NEW YORK JETSThe Jets must, and likely will, revamp their cornerback room this offseason. Bryce Hall was a nice find in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft but more talent is desperately needed. Head coach Robert Saleh is a brilliant defensive mind that places special emphasis on capable cover-men. The Jets possess a plethora of draft capital and will likely target a cornerback relatively early in the first round, but proven veteran additions are also required if they hope to take the desired step forward in 2022. General manager Joe Douglas finds himself in a quality position against the salary cap and can afford to make a notable splash this offseason. The Jets currently possess more than $44 million in available cap space, via Spotrac. Landing a big fish like Jackson would immediately transform New York's secondary while allowing Saleh the freedom to become more multiple within his play-calling tendencies. Jackson is a scheme-versatile talent that can thrive in any and all systems. Plucking Jackson away from the division-rival Patriots would be the cherry on top.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS2022 is beginning to carry the appearance of a put-up-or-shut-up campaign for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. Seattle experienced their worst season in the Russell Wilson era in 2021, and general manager John Schneider will be eager to return his Seahawks to postseason prominence. Seattle's window to capture a second Super Bowl title with Wilson under center is shrinking and Schneider must remain aggressive in his pursuit of offseason upgrades. The Seahawks possess more than $35 million in available money, and should spend it wisely. Adding insult to injury, the Seahawks play in the competitive NFC West. Their divisional rival Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers combined to represent the conference in this year's NFC Championship Game. The presence of Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals' high-flying offense means Seattle must Carroll has spent the offseason revamping and retooling his defensive coaching staff, a telltale sign that all parties involved were disappointed with last season's results as they shift towards a change in strategy. The duo of Sidney Jones and D.J. Reed is set to become free agents and the Seahawks should feel they can do better at the position. Jackson would immediately be tasked with slowing down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. (should he re-sign in Los Angeles) and DeAndre Hopkins in a tough-natured division.
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