Patriots to roll the dice, not tag J.C. Jackson in free agency

New England Patriots, NFL Free Agency

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The New England Patriots will let Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson go to the open market.

After a breakout season for the New England Patriots, cornerback J.C. Jackson is not expected to be tagged and will be hitting unrestricted free agency.

Jackson had eight interceptions and a league-best 23 passes defended last year for the Patriots. The former undrafted defensive back out of Maryland has had 25 interceptions in New England uniform. While he could conceivably be slapped with the tag, Ian Rapoport of The NFL Network does not believe that will be the case. The Patriots will let him hit the market in NFL free agency.

This leaves to chance Jackson potentially departing New England in the midst of his athletic prime.

J.C. Jackson rumors: New England Patriots will not use franchise tag on CB

New England does not have enough cap space presently to afford Jackson to play on the tag. While the Patriots are in the black heading into the new league year, $7.3 million in available space is not going to cut it to retain one of the best ballhawks in the game today. Though New England can create enough space to bring Jackson back, they may just let him walk this month.

For an undrafted player, the Patriots got more than their money’s worth out of Jackson. Defensive backs usually flourish playing for New England. Though the Patriots have not crushed it in most recent NFL Drafts, they could look to add Jackson’s replacement that way than pay above-market value to retain his services. Not only that, but Jackson should have a robust market in free agency.

Two teams that make sense for him are the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is calling the shots in Las Vegas. With Dave Ziegler as the Silver and Black’s new general manager, Jackson could end up in Sin City. As for Pittsburgh, Jackson could reunite with the Steelers’ new overqualified linebackers coach in Brian Flores.

By letting Jackson go to market, there is a chance the Patriots could lose their Pro Bowl corner.

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