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As expected, Patriots don’t place the franchise tag on DB J.C. Jackson, let him walk in free agency

Cornerback J.C. Jackson will officially hit the open market after a stellar 2021 season.

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) reacts after intercepting a pass in the Tennessee Titans end zone in the second half at Gillette Stadium. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots officially decided not to apply the franchise tag to CB J.C. Jackson, meaning the Pro Bowl cornerback will officially hit the free-agent market. The franchise tag would have provided him a one-year contract worth more than $17 million, but he’ll seek his own long-term deal as a free agent.

The decision to forego the tag on Jackson comes as a slight surprise given the cornerback’s dominance since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent, though rumors have swirled since February that the Patriots weren’t likely to place the tag on him. During his stretch with the Patriots, he intercepted 25 passes — the most for any player over his first four years — despite not becoming a regular starter until midway through the 2020 season.

Jackson had expressed frustration ahead of Tuesday’s deadline in the lack of progress made with the Patriots on a long-term deal. “I guess they feel like they don’t need me,” Jackson recently told NBC Sports Boston. “I guess I can’t be that important to them. I know I am, but they’re not showing me.” There’s certain to be a viable market for the young DB, though, with plenty of teams eager to button up their secondary.

In 2021, Jackson led the Patriots with eight interceptions and 23 passes defended. For his efforts, Jackson earned his first Pro Bowl nod as well as the second-team All-Pro honors.