J.C. Jackson is having a fabulous season for the Patriots.
The undrafted rookie from 2018 added an interception on Sunday against Miami increasing his total to eight on the year and 10 overall takeaways. The 10 takeaways are tied for the second-most in Patriots history for a single season and tied for the most in a single-season under Bill Belichick with Asante Samuel.
“I saw the ball, and I went to attack the ball and made a play,” Jackson said of his interception by the goal-line.
Now, with the Patriots at 6-8 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 most of the attention with the team is centered around the future and what the team will look like in 2021 and beyond.
Is Jackson a player the secondary can build around?
It’s a good debate as clearly he’s been a very effective corner and has great ball skills, but it’s worth noting he’s also had Stephon Gilmore on the other side of the field for the majority of his career. More often than not he hasn’t gone up against opponents’ No. 1 receivers.
Jackson will be a restricted free agent this offseason, while Gilmore has one more year left on his contract, although there’s been a lot of speculation the team could move on from him after this season.
What will the Patriots do with Jackson? Malcolm Butler could give some clues.
Butler was a restricted free agent following the 2016 season where he had a career-high four interceptions and instead of signing him to a new contract, the team went out and signed Gilmore, a free agent at the time, to a massive contract and Butler played the 2017 season on a first-round tender for $3.91 million.
Now, since Jackson is a restricted free agent and likely will get a first-round tender as well, teams could sign him, but would need to give up a first-round pick to New England in order to do so.
Then following the 2017 season, as a free agent himself Butler signed a five-year, $61 million deal with the Titans.
If the Patriots believe Jackson is their future No. 1 cornerback then it’s likely they will sign him to a big extension this offseason, but if they don’t they could go the Butler route and allow him to play 2021 on a first-round tender when he probably deserves to make more money.
At this point, there’s really no indication how the Patriots view Jackson in terms of the future, but looking back at how they handled Butler is a worthy exercise.