What Pats' franchise tag history can tell us about J.C. Jackson's future


Which path should the New England Patriots take with J.C. Jackson? They have two weeks to make up their minds.

The window for NFL teams to use their franchise tag opened Tuesday and runs through March 8. Jackson is one of several NFL stars eligible for the tag: The Patriots can pay their star cornerback a projected $17.5 million to play on the franchise tag in 2022. If they don't, he'll become an unrestricted free agent on March 16, assuming they don't sign him to a new deal.

So, how likely is it that New England tags Jackson? Since head coach/general manager Bill Belichick arrived in 2000, the Patriots have used their franchise tag 10 times. They've only used it twice in the last nine years, however, and have only tagged one other cornerback during Belichick's tenure.

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Here's a rundown of franchise-tagged Patriots under Bill Belichick, followed by an analysis of what this history means for Jackson.

Adam Vinatieri, Kicker (2002)

After New England offered Vinatieri a $1.24 million franchise tag in February 2002, the hero of Super Bowl XXXVI signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract with the Patriots less than a month later.

Vinatieri spent four more successful seasons in Foxboro that included another Super Bowl game-winner to cap the 2003 season.

Tebucky Jones, Safety (2003)

The Patriots went the "tag and trade" route with Jones, dealing him to the New Orleans Saints for a 2003 third-round pick, a 2003 seventh-round pick and a 2004 fourth-round pick.

The Jones trade helped pave the way for New England to sign Rodney Harrison, who anchored the Patriots' secondary and helped the team win two Super Bowl titles.

Adam Vinatieri, Kicker (2005)

The Patriots kept Vinatieri around for one extra season on a $2.5 million franchise tag. He had a down year by his standards, making just 20 of 25 field goal attempts (80%) before signing with the Indianapolis Colts the following offseason.

Asante Samuel, Cornerback (2007)

Only once has Belichick used the franchise tag on a cornerback, and things didn't go very smoothly. Samuel held out for most of the 2007 preseason before finally signing his one-year $7.79 million deal on Aug. 27.

Samuel earned first-team All-Pro honors during an excellent 2007 campaign for the Patriots, but his New England tenure ended the following offseason when he signed a six-year, $56 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Cassel, Quarterback (2009)

After going 11-5 in place of the injured Tom Brady in 2008, Cassel joined Jones as the two players tagged and traded under Belichick.

New England dealt Cassel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for their second-round pick (No. 34 overall), which the Patriots used to select safety Patrick Chung.

Vince Wilfork, Defensive tackle (2010)

Wilfork followed Vinatieri's lead, signing a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots in March after the team offered him the $7 million franchise tag in February.

Wilfork earned Pro Bowl honors in each of the next three seasons and helped New England win Super Bowl XLIX before joining the Houston Texans in 2015.

Logan Mankins, Offensive guard (2011)

See: Vinatieri and Wilfork -- although it took a little longer with Mankins. The talented lineman signed a six-year, $51 million deal with the Patriots in August after being offered the $10.1 million franchise tag in February.

New England traded Mankins to the Buccaneers in August 2014 for tight end Tim Wright and Tampa Bay's 2015 fourth-round pick, which became defensive end Trey Flowers.

Wes Welker, Wide receiver (2012)

Welker played out the 2012 season on a $9.5 million franchise tag, racking up 118 catches for 1,354 yards with six touchdowns to earn Pro Bowl honors. He signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Denver Broncos the following offseason.

Stephen Gostkowski, Kicker (2015)

Gostkowski parlayed the Patriots' $4.1 million franchise tag offer into a four-year, $17.2 million contract extension he signed just before training camp in July 2015.

Gostkowski went on to have a first-team All-Pro campaign and spent the next five seasons in New England.

Joe Thuney, Offensive lineman (2020)

The Patriots ended a four-year franchise tag hiatus in 2020 by paying Thuney $14.8 million to remain in New England. That was Thuney's final year with the team, though, as he signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Chiefs in 2021 free agency.

Analysis: Recent history -- and the fact that the only cornerback Belichick franchise-tagged held out until August -- suggests the Patriots may not use the tag on Jackson. But New England does have a track record of using the franchise tag as a means to either trade a player or sign them to a new deal later in the offseason.

Our Phil Perry recently pointed out the benefits of the "tag and trade" approach, which could help the Patriots acquire some draft capital for Jackson if it seems unlikely he'll stay past 2022.

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