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What releasing J.C. Jackson means for the Patriots

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By: Bernd Buchmasser

Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

As expected, the Patriots have parted ways with the former Pro Bowler.

The writing was on the wall, and on Friday the New England Patriots officially pulled the trigger: cornerback J.C. Jackson has been released.

Jackson entered the offseason off a disappointing 2023 campaign. Re-joining the Patriots via trade in October he failed to return to the Pro Bowl form he had displayed during his first stint with the organization. A team suspension and subsequent trip to the non-football illness list furthermore put his future in question.

Now any questions have been answered. Let’s therefore take a brief look at what Jackson’s release means for the Patriots from a big-picture perspective.

The Patriots have over $100 million in cap space now

New England releasing Jackson seemed like a foregone conclusion heading into the offseason for one big reason: salary cap implications. The 28-year-old was due a cap hit of $14.375 million in 2024, none of it guaranteed.

This plus his 2023 campaign made the decision an easy one from the team’s point of view. In turn, and considering the league’s Top-51 offseason stipulation, the Patriots cleared $13.46 million against the cap by parting ways with Jackson. According to Miguel Benzan, they are now $100.33 million under the NFL’s $255.4 million salary cap — the highest number in the league by a healthy margin.

New England’s cornerback depth takes a hit…

Releasing Jackson, while expected, does remove another player from the Patriots’ cornerback depth chart. As a consequence, the club currently has seven players at the position under contract for 2024:

  • Christian Gonzalez
  • Jonathan Jones
  • Marcus Jones
  • Shaun Wade
  • Marco Wilson
  • Isaiah Bolden
  • Azizi Hearn

While quantity is not necessarily a concern, quality is. Christian Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones are starter-level players, but the former is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury and the latter will turn 31 in September.

The rest of the group is relatively unproven, at least in the Patriots system. Marcus Jones is the most notable player on the list besides Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones, but he too missed a majority of the 2023 season due to injury and has only 17 total games on his NFL résumé. Shaun Wade, Marco Wilson, Isaiah Bolden and Azizi Hearn, meanwhile, are relative unknowns.

Wilson is the most experienced player of the bunch: the former fourth-round pick appeared in 44 games as a member of the Arizona Cardinals between 2021 and 2023, and one more as a Patriot late last year. Nonetheless, his outlook in New England remains TBD.

…officially making the position a need to be addressed

The Patriots do have other cornerbacks that factor into the mix beyond those seven, namely their free agents. Myles Bryant is unrestricted, meaning he will enter the open market on March 13 and can start negotiating with teams two days earlier; Alex Austin is an exclusive rights free agent who can unilaterally get tendered by the team until that March 13 deadline.

New England retaining both would improve the quality of the group, but it nonetheless remains an under-the-radar need — something releasing Jackson makes clear once again. The Patriots using their vast salary cap resources to find another starter-caliber option, presumably on the perimeter, would therefore not be a surprise.

They also might try to add more talent through the draft, even though their early-round picks should all be used to get one of the league’s worst offenses back on track.

The original Jackson trade compensation will not be impacted

The Patriots reacquired Jackson via trade from the Los Angeles Chargers in early October, using a 2025 sixth-round draft pick to bring him and a 2025 seventh-rounder aboard. While conditional trade compensation is not uncommon in the NFL, this transaction was not dependent on any playing time or similar variables.

Even with Jackson off the Patriots less than five months after his return, the draft picks exchanged by the team and the Chargers remain standing as originally agreed upon.

Originally posted on Pats Pulpit