2022 NFL Free Agency: CB JC Jackson
What makes it easy to trade away a former Defensive Player of the Year in Stephon Gilmore? When you have one of the best playmaking corners in the league opposite him.
J.C. Jackson has been one of the best ballhawks in the NFL from the moment he’s stepped foot in the league. In fact, since his rookie year in 2018, the four-year pro leads the league with 25 picks in that span.
In 2021, Jackson led the league in pass deflections (23) to go along with eight INTs, just a season after he totaled nine picks in 2020. Jackson’s advanced numbers have been stellar too; he has never yielded a passer rating allowed of over 66.5, including 46.8 in 2021. He also allowed a 49.1% completion rate last season, the second-lowest mark of his career.
So he’s clearly one of the top DBs in the NFL. But does that mean he’ll strike it rich in New England? The Patriots uncharacteristically went on a spending spree last offseason, leaving them with just over $2.8 million as free agency begins.
New England may not be able to pony up the money for him, but I know a team that could make sense for Jackson.
Landing spot prediction: Washington Commanders
Having played two collegiate seasons at Maryland, going back to the DMV would be a bit of a homecoming for Jackson. Going to Washington could give him the chance to play for another defensive-minded coach as well, going from Bill Belichick to Ron Rivera.
Generally a man-to-man corner, Jackson showed he can play well in a heavier zone scheme last season. Rivera and DC Jack Del Rio have more of a zone-based defense, so Jackson showed he’s versatile enough to play in that type of system.
Now the Commanders do have a lot of money tied up in their CB room with William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller, but the beauty of that is J.C. would help shift the group around. Rather than William Jackson playing No. 1 WRs outside, J.C. would assume that role. That would allow Washington to move Fuller to the slot, where he has thrived throughout his career.
According to Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports, Fuller was in the slot or in the middle of the field on 28.3% of his snaps in 2021, aside from his duties as an outside corner in base defenses. Adding a player like J.C. Jackson could boost a pass defense that finished 29th in football and allowed an NFL-high 34 TD passes last season.
So considering J.C.’s age (26), production, and scheme versatility, he should command a deal in the top-CB in football range. I don’t think he’ll surpass Jalen Ramsey’s $20 million per year average, he won’t be far off. I’m predicting that J.C. will take a four-year deal worth about $19.63 million per year (just above Marshon Lattimore’s $19.52 million yearly average).
Washington does need to free up some money to get this just right, but if the team’s three highest-paid players in Landon Collins ($16.2 million cap hit), Jackson III ($14 million cap hit), and Curtis Samuel ($12.9 million) all take pay cuts, the Commanders will have a chance bringing in one of the best defensive players in the league.