The JC Jackson Era in Los Angeles did not get off to a good start. After signing a massive contract in the offseason, the longtime New England Patriot was one of the worst cornerbacks in football last year. With the same coaching staff coming back for 2023 and the cornerback clearly unhappy, could the Chargers trade JC Jackson back to his old team?
Could the Chargers Trade JC Jackson Back to the Patriots?
A Failed Experiment In LA
Everything that could go wrong for JC Jackson in Los Angeles, did go wrong. Injuries limited the cornerback to just five games of action, but that might’ve been a blessing in disguise for both the player and the team. While on the field, Jackson was the worst cornerback in the league, per Pro Football Focus. According to their film-based grades, Jackson finished the year with a 28.7 grade, which would have ranked 118th out of 118 players if he had enough snaps to qualify.
While it’s hard to imagine him being that bad for a second straight year, it’s even harder to imagine him looking like the guy that played lockdown defense in New England. The reason for that is simple: the Chargers don’t run the same type of coverage as the Patriots. Jackson is at his best working in press-man coverage while following the same receiver throughout the route, and that’s just not the type of defense Brandon Staley wants to play. If Jackson stays, the Chargers will be spending big money to use a player in a suboptimal role, and that’s bad for everybody. While nobody wants to admit to a mistake this big after just one season, it’s best for both sides if they go their separate ways.
For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look like JC Jackson would mind a trade to his old home. Over the past week, the cornerback has deleted all his Chargers pictures from Instagram and appeared to be taking a trip down memory lane.
Former #Patriots CB J.C. Jackson has deleted all of his posts from him on the Chargers and has posted these stories this past week: pic.twitter.com/2gM7RkxRIL
— Ethan Hurwitz (@HurwitzSports) February 3, 2023
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Of course, it takes two to tango, and this trade won’t happen if the Patriots don’t think JC Jackson can improve their team. Fortunately, the Patriots should have every reason to believe in Jackson’s abilities to recapture his old form.
For one, we already know that Jackson can thrive in New England’s scheme, and it’s not like he just forgot how to play football. While Jackson’s 2022 was largely a disaster, he still looked comfortable on the rare occasions he got to play press-man coverage. New England loves that aggressive style of play, and Jackson could immediately step in and be a decent CB1 in that scheme.
The Patriots have a good defense but, as currently constructed, their biggest weakness is cornerback. Jalen Mills is nothing special, Jonathan Jones is a free agent, and while both Marcus Jones and Jack Jones showed potential last year, neither player is destined to transform into a lockdown corner. Even if both Jones’s hit their respective ceilings, there is no such thing as too many good cornerbacks in today’s pass-happy NFL.
We’ve seen homegrown Patriots earn a big paycheck, crash and burn elsewhere, and then return to New England looking like their old selves. Jamie Collins did it back in 2019, and JC Jackson could be the next to follow this trend. Of course, even if trade would benefit both teams, they still need to sort out the money.
Making the Money Work In a JC Jackson Trade
The Chargers are currently $19.7 million over the 2023 salary cap, and Jackson’s contract is a big reason for that. The team is going to have to cut some players in the coming weeks, but trading Jackson could help alleviate their financial burdens. According to Over the Cap, trading Jackson with a post-June 1st designation would result in $12 million of salary cap savings. The Chargers would still need to make some moves to get below the line, but it would go a long way in solving their financial burden.
This $12 million would carry over to New England, but the Patriots shouldn’t have a problem with that. $12 million is CB2 money in today’s NFL, and if Jackson can regain his 2021 form, then that’s a bargain. Additionally, the Patriots have nearly $38 million in cap space, so they could easily add Jackson to the payroll without impacting their ability to be active in free agency.
The Chargers need to build the best roster possible in 2023 and, sadly, that roster does not include JC Jackson. While this isn’t how anybody hoped his tenure would go, the best course of action for both sides is to part ways.
Main photo: Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports