Patriots news: J.C. Jackson, free agency and the new Bourne identity

New England Patriots (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
New England Patriots (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

If you think the New England Patriots gambled by trading top corner Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers weeks in to the 2021 NFL season, the general manager in Bill Belichick may be gambling even more by allowing his replacement, J.C. Jackson, to hit free agency after the season.

As the fourth-year cornerback has gone from undrafted fine to one of the top cornerbacks and ballhawks in the game, a big contract is certainly in the picture for Jackson. But a big question going into the offseason will be will that contract be with the Patriots?

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson looks to intercept a big contract

Second in the NFL with six interceptions and No. 1 when it comes to confidence, Jackson has repeatedly said his focus is on the football field, but a big pay day must be in the back of his mind, if not in the front of his mind.

Related Story. J.C. Jackson in for a big contract. light

"“I love playing for the New England Patriots, playing under Coach Belichick. I have grown as a football player since I’ve been here,” Jackson said when asked about his pending free agency during a conference call on Friday. “It’s a place that gave me a chance from Day 1. I would love to be a New England Patriot for a long time.”"

Jackson went on to say that he will leave the money talk up to his agent, but will a hometown discount be in the cards if another team comes up with an offer Belichick isn’t willing to shell out?

That is where the risk of not locking Jackson up with a contract extension comes in. The Patriots will be taking a gamble by allowing their top cornerback to explore free agency. They will have the opportunity to place the franchise tag on Jackson, but if they believe he is the man like he believes he is the man, they will need to lock him up long-term and that could start in the four-year, $65 million range to start, a comparable contract to that of Gilmore when they signed him back in 2017.

Patriots notebook: Kendrick Bourne proving to be a worthy addition

The New England Patriots not only hit on there draft picks in 2021, but they also hit on most of the free agents they brought in this season.

With all the talk surrounding the additions of Matt Judon and tight end Hunter Henry, who have both made solid contributions on defense and offense respectively, one of the free agent signings that have flown under the radar is that of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, specifically how the Patriots have used in the offense.

Entering Week 12 with 37 receptions for 562 yards and 3 touchdowns, Bourne has lived up to expectations in the passing game, but its how they have used him as a rusher that has been a nice surprise. With 6 carries resulting in 78 yards this season, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has etched a role for the 26-year-old wide receiver as an end-around and jet sweep specialist, a role he is having success with.

"“It’s definitely new to me,” Bourne said Wednesday, as transcribed by NESN. “I’ve never really ran the ball how they use me here, and I enjoy it. I love it. It gives us a versatility, and (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) just does a good job of doing it at the perfect time. He’ll run right, right, right, then we’ll come back and go left, and defenses are just confused. They don’t really know what’s going on.“It’s just about me getting better in that role, too. I could rush better, do things better, but (McDaniels) uses all of us well. It’s not just me rushing the ball. It’s just a different threat, and defenses hate it.”"

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With one of those plays resulting in a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor, Bourne is being utilized in the Patriots’ offense in ways that weren’t expected, which is good for the team and the player who is coming into his own as a multi-faceted playmaker who has not only become one of Mac Jones’ primary targets, but a weapon defenses have to prepare for going forward.