J.C. Jackson is the Patriots' top pending free agent, and thus the All-Pro cornerback is also considered a prime candidate for the franchise tag. Fresh off his first Pro Bowl nod, the former Super Bowl champion is willing to play under the tag in 2022, according to NBC Sports Boston. But that doesn't mean he's confident he'll be back in New England, telling Phil Perry on Tuesday that he hasn't had any contact talks with the Patriots since the end of the 2021 season.
"I guess they feel like they don't need me," Jackson said. "I guess I can't be that important to them. I know I am, but they're not showing me." The corner added that the Patriots approached him about a contract extension during the 2021 season, but the two sides respectfully couldn't reach a deal. He carries no hard feelings and would welcome any chance to suit up for them again.
"I love the game," he told Perry. "If they tag me, I'm gonna go out there and play."
Tuesday marked the first day NFL teams could use the franchise tag on pending free agents. If Jackson were to receive the tag, he'd be due approximately $17 million in 2022, a major raise from his 2021 restricted free-agent tender of $3.4 million. The Patriots have until March 8 to use the tag, with Jackson set to hit the open market on March 16. As an unrestricted free agent, he'll be eligible to begin negotiating with other clubs two days earlier, on March 14.
Undrafted in 2018, Jackson has emerged as one of the game's top playmaking corners in recent years. A reserve for most of his first two seasons, the Maryland product logged five interceptions in 2019 before picking off nine passes the following season. In 2021, Jackson had eight picks to go along with a league-leading 23 pass deflections for New England's defense.