Written by: Diana Rossini, Jeff Howe, Chad Graf, Daniel Popper
The New England Patriots are acquiring cornerback J.C. Jackson from the Los Angeles Chargers, bringing back the one-time Pro Bowler less than two years after he left in free agency, a team source confirmed. Here’s what you need to know:
- New England will trade a 2025 sixth-round pick to Los Angeles, which will return a 2025 seventh-round pick for Jackson.
- The trade comes after New England’s promising rookie running back 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 before the team’s game in Week 4, he replied: “I’m not 100 percent. I’m doing the best I can.”
Why trade makes sense
The Patriots left Dallas last weekend with their top four players injured. One month into the season, Gonzalez, their rising star, suffered a serious shoulder injury, a source confirmed The athlete, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones are both injured reserve, and Jonathan Jones has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. So the Patriots needed help as quickly as possible, especially as they looked to rebound from the shellacking they took against the Cowboys. And Belichick is always more willing to add players mid-season that he’s already worked with, hoping their prior time together will lead to a smooth transition.
This is still a gamble on the Patriots’ part, one that may be necessitated by injuries. Jackson was one of the Chargers’ high-profile free agent signings and then followed up a disappointing 2022 with a start to this season so poor that he was a healthy scratch. But Belichick is clearly confident that the Patriots can return Jackson to the star he once was with the Patriots.
They’ll have to pay him a lot of money this season, but Jackson doesn’t have any guaranteed money on his contract after 2023, so the Patriots could easily restructure his deal after that. For a team in desperate need of cornerback help, the Patriots got a guy who was their stud just two years ago. — Chad Graf, New England Patriots beat writer
With the trade of J.C. Jackson, Bill Belichick is sending a message that the Patriots are not giving up
What went wrong for Jackson with the Chargers?
Less than two years after making Jackson the shining jewel of the 2022 free agency class, the Chargers quickly and decisively cut ties. The path to this informal conclusion can be traced back to the end of August last year. Jackson had just finished a very strong training camp with the Chargers. There has been a lot of excitement about how right cornerback will fit into Brandon Staley’s defensive scheme. Jackson was coming off two of his best practices of the summer, two joint sessions with the Cowboys.
On August 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 following week against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. It was all downhill after that 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 in the second half of the 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 rehabilitation center admirably. He was back on the field on the first day of training camp, well ahead of schedule. Aside from the minor setback he suffered in the second week of camp, Jackson has been progressing toward a return to action. He started Week 1 against Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins and didn’t play well. In Week 2, he started against the Tennessee Titans and showed some signs of improvement.
But what emerged in the background inside the building was the deterioration of his relationship with the technical 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 restore Jackson’s level of focus. Obviously this did not work as intended. Jackson was in uniform and did not play in the Las Vegas Raiders’ win on Sunday. He’s now on his way to New England, where he’s earned more than $45 million from the Chargers in seven starts. — Daniel Popper, Los Angeles Chargers beat writer
Financial impact of trade
In terms of cost, the Chargers will save about $7.4 million on their 2023 roster, based on a report from Sports Illustrated that Los Angeles will convert most of Jackson’s remaining base salary into a signing bonus. They could use this very well in the coming days and weeks to shore up other areas of the roster — perhaps at receiver, with Mike Williams out for the season with a torn ACL. The Chargers will still have a significant dead cap charge of close to $21 million in 2024 due to the prorated signing bonus remaining in 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 vocal supporter of signing Jackson. However, the organization is credited with 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 recorded 25 interceptions as a member of the franchise.
The Chargers signed Jackson to a five-year, $82.5 million contract before 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 training camp, putting him ahead of schedule in his rehab.
(Photo: Cooper Neal/Getty Images)
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