According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots will not use the Franchise Tag on cornerback J.C. Jackson, allowing Jackson to hit the open free agency market which opens on 16.
Jackson has been a ballhawk since arriving in New England as an undrafted rookie out of Maryland. In his four seasons, he's grabbed 25 interceptions, tying an NFL record. His production, consistency and availability (62 of 65 possible games played) are unquestionable.
After playing 2021 under a second-round restricted free agent tender, Jackson comes up for free agency during a tight salary cap offseason for the Patriots. The Franchise Tag would cost approximately $17.295 million for Jackson, meaning the Patriots would need to start moving some money around immediately to take that number on, even if it was just a move to buy more time to negotiate a long-term contract or trade.
The Franchise Tag deadline arrives on Tuesday.
The Patriots could still make a play for Jackson after he sees what kind of interest he draws on the open market. However, that interest should be significant and New England might have a tough time matching the kind of offers Jackson will receive without the kind of cap space and money that they had last spring.
If Mr. Int does depart in free agency it will make the position even more of a draft priority. Cornerbacks are set to appear at the combine over the weekend with on-field workouts on Sunday.