The free agency dominoes have finally started to fall. Teams left and right are signing players in hopes that they are the missing piece that can push their team to the next level. While many of these free agent signings are likely to fail and look bad in a few years, some will hit, and the results will be very positive.
Out of all of the signings on day one of free agency, perhaps no deal was as significant as the Los Angeles Chargers’ signing of corner J.C Jackson. Jackson agreed to a five-year contract worth $85 million dollars, making Jackson one of the highest-paid corners in the league. One of the best cornerbacks in the entire NFL over the last few seasons, Jackson’s arrival to the Chargers will go a long way in fixing this defense that underperformed last season.
Jackson, a former undrafted free agent back in 2018, has quickly developed into one of the best corners in football. He was a spot starter his first two seasons in the league before becoming a full-time starter in 2020. Jackson is a good-sized corner that possesses outstanding overall athleticism and ball skills. He has shown an ability to excel playing in both man and zone coverages and an ability to take away opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers.
What I appreciate the most about Jackson is his ability to make plays on the football—a trait that separates the good corners from the great. Last season, Jackson had a league-leading 23 passes defended while also securing 17 interceptions over the last two years. That type of ball production is rare and will give the Chargers one of the best playmaking secondaries in football.
Giving the Chargers a true No. 1 corner will go a long way in fortifying a talented yet inconsistent secondary. Last season, the Chargers received mixed results from their secondary as every player not named Derwin James was a bit inconsistent. Starting outside corner Michael Davis, who received a three-year, $25 million contract just last offseason, struggled in his role as the Chargers’ top corner. Davis had previously excelled playing as the team’s second corner behind Casey Hayward and now with the signing of Jackson, he can slide back into that role.
Additionally, now that Jackson and Davis can both play outside in base, when the Chargers go in sub, Asante Samuel Jr. can now play inside, a position that better suits his ability. Samuel Jr., the team’s second-round pick in 2021, had a strong rookie season when he was on the field, but he suffered from lingering effects from a concussion he sustained. Now healthy, Samuel Jr. gives the Chargers an athletic, instinctive, and tough nickel corner who also has outstanding ball skills.
Between Jackson, Davis, and Samuel, the Chargers now boast one of the best corner rooms in the NFL.
The signing of Jackson is further proof that the Charges intend to maximize the years in which quarterback Justin Herbert is on his rookie deal. The team has been hyper-aggressive this offseason already making several moves that will pay massive dividends this fall. The team signed wide receiver Mike Williams to a contract extension right before the franchise tag deadline last Tuesday. By signing Williams to an extension and avoiding placing the tag on him, it allowed the Chargers to lower his overall cap hit and free up money to continue to be aggressive. Not to mention that Williams’ three-year, $60 million contract looks like a home run compared to what wide receiver Christian Kirk received from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After signing Williams, the Chargers then turned to the trade market and acquired edge defender Khalil Mack from the Bears for just a second-round and sixth-round pick. Mack, when healthy, is a top-six defensive player in all of football and is reuniting with Brandon Staley, who coached him in Chicago a few years prior. Mack now gets an opportunity to play alongside fellow Pro Bowler Joey Bosa, and together they form arguably the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.
Clearly, the Chargers saw how being aggressively worked out for their L.A. neighbor and are following suit.
Not only does the signing of Jackson change this team’s defense, but it also changes their draft plans. Before Monday, corner was arguably the team’s most pressing need and there was a very high probability that they would have selected a corner early in the draft—perhaps even as high as pick No. 17. In a loaded corner class, it was more than feasible that the team could have selected corner Trent McDuffie, Andrew Booth, or even Derek Stingley Jr. if he had fallen to 17. Now, with the addition of Jackson, it allows the team to invest high capital elsewhere.
Where? I think about the possibility of adding a receiver at No. 17 with names such as Chris Olave or Jameson Williams. Or if they want to add talent to an offensive line that struggled at times, players such as Charles Cross or Trevor Penning could make some sense. Or if they just want to build a stacked defense, addressing the interior of their defensive line with either Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt could be the way to go. Regardless, the signing of Jackson now gives them the flexibility of being patient with their first overall pick and taking the best overall player.
As the Chargers saw other teams in the AFC be aggressive, they realized they couldn’t get left behind. They have a superstar quarterback on a team-friendly rookie deal and know they must take advantage of that fact. So far this offseason, they have not disappointed.
- Sep 25, 2023
- Sep 25, 2023