The Rams opted to slam the door on the possibility that someone will sign cornerback Darious Williams to an offer sheet that the Rams can’t or won’t match, by applying a first-round RFA tender to the undrafted defender. The Patriots kicked the door open for an offer sheet to cornerback J.C. Jackson, who received only a second-round tender.
So the question becomes whether another team will sign Williams to an offer sheet that Patriots can’t or won’t match.
The 2011 CBA added second-round tender option to the process. Since then, no one has signed a player with a second-round tender to an offer sheet.
So will someone sign Jackson? The lower the pick in round two, the more tempting it becomes to make a run at Jackson. He had nine interceptions in 2020, second only to Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who had 10.
Some think Patriots coach Bill Belichick tried to hide Jackson last year, starting him in only 11 of 16 games and not putting him on the original Pro Bowl ballot. (Jackson eventually was added to the ballot, but he didn’t make the team.)
By now, other teams know about Jackson. But will someone offer him enough to get the Patriots to not match the offer, and to justify sending a second-round pick to New England?
Even though no player has changed teams via a second-round RFA tender, plenty of trades have happened in recent years with a second-round pick or more as the compensation. Often, these trades have occurred without a new deal executed at the time of the trade, giving the player more leverage for the eventual transaction.
If a team views the situation as a trade for Jackson with a second-round pick as the price for it and the certainty of a long-term contract along with it, it may be easier to justify the transaction.
Of course, there’s a chance that Patriots will match the offer. If so, Jackson’s prospective team will have simply provided free contract-negotiation services for the Patriots.
The Patriots surely have thought all this through, carefully. Indeed, don’t be stunned if the Patriots’ first-line response to an offer sheet signed by Jackson will be to offer the balance of cornerback Stephon Gilmore‘s contract to that same team, for that same second-round pick.
Or maybe they’ll be happy to take the second-round pick in 2021 for Jackson and move on. Keeping him for a year and then watching him leave as a free agent in 2022 will mean getting a compensatory pick in 2023 — unless of course the Patriots decide to corner the market on free agents again next year.
None of that matters until someone signs Jackson to an offer sheet. Over the next few weeks, we’ll find out whether that happens.