JC Jackson says he's ready to play under the franchise tag for the New England Patriots next season, but the cornerback thinks the team aren't currently demonstrating that they need him.
Jackson was a standout performer for the Patriots, who are 22/1 to win Super Bowl LVII, in 2021 as Bill Belichick's team reached the play-offs again, only to lose to the Buffalo Bills in their wild card game.
But the four-year veteran has not heard so much as a word from the franchise since that mid-January defeat to the Bills and assumes it is a sign that the Patriots would prefer to invest elsewhere.
"I guess they feel like they don't need me," Jackson said, via Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston. "I guess I can't be that important to them. I know I am, but they're not showing me."
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson has developed into one of the best defensive backs in football - recording 25 interceptions over the past four years.
He tallied an NFL-high 23 passes defended and eight interceptions last season to earn selection for the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honours.
Jackson says the team approached him about a contract extension this past year, but he chose to put the positive discussions on hold until after the season.
"I wanted to focus on ball at the time," added Jackson, who would earn an estimated $17.295 million in 2022 if he was placed under the franchise tag by the 8th March. "I wanted to finish the season the right way. I didn't really come back to them on it."