Fan voting for the Pro Bowl opened on Wednesday morning. Each team submits 11 players on offense and defense, and 5 special teams players for a total of 27 team nominations. Patriots fans were quick to realize that the team did not submit J.C. Jackson for a nomination. So, why would the team leave their best cornerback and league leader in interceptions this season off the list?
As Mike Reiss pointed out, the Patriots will typically submit their starters for the nominations. This included defensive players like Byron Cowart (PFF rank 108 of 117), John Simon (PFF rank 110 of 111), and Anfernee Jennings (unranked on PFF). Jackson ranks 16th of 116 eligible cornerbacks.
A Patriots’ spokesperson said the team chose Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty as their two cornerback nominations because they have started the most games at the position this year (Nine starts for McCourty and six for Gilmore) and have the longest tenure. Jackson may have only started four games thus far, but he has played 82% of all defensive snaps. Only Devin McCourty has been on the field for more snaps than him.
Within an hour of Patriots’ twitter exploding over the snub, the team added Jackson to the ballot in place of rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings.
The Pro Bowl is one of the worst events in all of sports. I really don’t even care if J.C. Jackson receives Pro Bowl honors at the end of the year. Besides, there won't even be an actual game played this year due to the Coronavirus. What I do care about is Bill Belichick potentially ruining relationships with his players, causing them to leave in free agency. He only did that to the best football player to ever walked the earth. The least he could do is keep the top players still on the team happy.
Jackson will be a restricted-free agent at the end of this season. If Jackson were to receive Pro Bowl honors, he could negotiate Pro Bowl incentives in his next contract. These would be included in the team’ cap hit at the start of the 2021 season. Pro Bowl status will also help him negotiate a higher contract in general. It could draw additional suitors that could drive up Jackson’s price and even lure him away from New England. There appears to be a quiet riff between former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore and Bill Belichick. The defensive mastermind will need to keep Jackson in New England if he is forced to trade Gilmore in the 2021 offseason.
Jackson snagged his 6th interception of the year Sunday night at the end of the first half, potentially taking at least three points off the board for Baltimore. The interception extended his streak to five straight games. Jackson in the first player to do so since 2014. After the game, Jackson described himself as a “playmaker”, stating he becomes a receive when the ball comes his way.
Feature image courtesy of Kathryn Riley