By: Dianna Russini, Jeff Howe, Chad Graff and Daniel Popper
The New England Patriots are acquiring cornerback J.C. Jackson from the Los Angeles Chargers, a team source confirmed, bringing back the one-time Pro Bowler less than two years after he left in free agency. Here’s what you need to know:
- New England will trade a 2025 sixth-round pick to Los Angeles, which will send a 2025 seventh-rounder back with Jackson.
- The trade comes after New England’s promising rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
- Tests on Gonzalez confirmed the Patriots’ worst fears, showing significant damage around the shoulder, according to a team source.
- Jackson has not played in the Chargers’ last two games. When asked if he was healthy ahead of the team’s Week 4 matchup, he replied: “I’m not 100 percent. I’m doing what I can.”
Why the trade makes sense
The Patriots left Dallas last weekend with their top four cornerbacks injured. Gonzalez, their star rookie one month into the season, suffered a significant shoulder injury, a source confirmed to The Athletic, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones are both on injured reserve, and Jonathan Jones has missed the last three games due to an ankle injury. So the Patriots needed help as soon as possible, especially as they look to bounce back from the shellacking they suffered against the Cowboys. And Belichick is always more willing to add players midseason that he’s already worked with, hopeful that their previous time together will make for a smooth transition.
This is still a bit of a gamble from the Patriots, one that might be necessitated by the injuries. Jackson was one of the Chargers’ highest-profile free-agent signings and then followed up a disappointing 2022 with a start this season so bad that he’s been a healthy scratch. But Belichick is clearly confident that the Patriots can restore Jackson to the star he once was with the Patriots.
They’re going to have to pay him a lot of money this season, but Jackson doesn’t have any guaranteed money on his contract beyond 2023, so the Patriots can easily restructure his deal after that. For a team that badly needs cornerback help, the Patriots land a guy who was a stud for them only two years ago. — Chad Graff, New England Patriots beat writer
With trade for J.C. Jackson, Bill Belichick sends message that Patriots aren’t giving up
What went wrong for Jackson with Chargers?
Less than two years after making Jackson the shining jewel of their 2022 free agency class, the Chargers have swiftly and decidedly cut ties. The path to this unceremonious conclusion can be traced back to the end of August last year. Jackson had just concluded a very solid first training camp with the Chargers. There was considerable excitement about how the cornerback was adjusting and fitting into Brandon Staley’s defensive scheme. And Jackson was coming off two of his best practices of the summer, two joint sessions with the Cowboys.
On Aug. 23, Jackson underwent ankle surgery in New York City to remove a bone spur. He missed the season-opening win over the Raiders before returning the next week against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. It was all downhill after this ankle surgery. Jackson missed the Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He returned for Week 4 but struggled over the next three games. He was benched for the second half of a win over the Denver Broncos. In Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks, he suffered a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.
By all accounts, public and private, Jackson attacked this rehab admirably. He was back on the practice field for the first day of training camp, well ahead of schedule. And outside of a slight setback in the second week of camp, Jackson was progressing toward a return to play. He started Week 1 against Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins and did not play well. In Week 2, he started against the Tennessee Titans and showed some signs of improvement.
But percolating in the background inside the building was a deterioration of his relationship with the coaching staff. That culminated with Jackson being a healthy scratch for Week 3 against Justin Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings. This was a message from the coaching staff, an attempt to rekindle a level of focus in Jackson. That clearly did not work as intended. Jackson was in uniform and did not play in Sunday’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders. And now he is on his way to New England, making more than $45 million from the Chargers for seven starts. — Daniel Popper, Los Angeles Chargers beat writer
Financial impact of the trade
Cap-wise, the Chargers will save about $7.4 million on their 2023 sheet, based on a report from Sports Illustrated that Los Angeles will be converting most of Jackson’s remaining base salary into a signing bonus. They could very well use this in the coming days and weeks to bolster other areas of the roster — perhaps at receiver, with Mike Williams out for the season with a torn ACL. The Chargers will still incur a significant dead money charge of close to $21 million in 2024 because of the remaining prorated signing bonus on Jackson’s deal.
This was a disastrous contract, one of the worst of Tom Telesco’s 11 years as general manager. Staley deserves some of the blame, as he was a strong advocate for signing Jackson. Credit to the organization, though, for cutting ties when they realized the situation with Jackson could not be resolved. — Popper
New England adds a player who enjoyed success during his four seasons in Foxboro. Jackson signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and tallied 25 interceptions as a member of the franchise.
The Chargers signed Jackson to a five-year, $82.5 million contract ahead of the 2022 season. He suffered a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon in Week 7 of last season.
Jackson remained at the team facility throughout the offseason to rehab the injury and was able to participate in the Chargers’ first practice of training camp, which put him ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation process.
(Photo: Cooper Neill / Getty Images)
Christine Lake is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. With an extensive background in sports journalism, he covers everything from major league championships to grassroots sports events. When she’s not on the field or at the stadium, you’ll find Christine coaching youth sports teams.