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Bengals ‘reportedly’ interested in free agent cornerback J.C. Jackson

This would be an all-time splash.

NFL: DEC 18 Patriots at Colts Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Cincinnati Bengals have made splashes in free agency, it’s been the defense that has benefited.

New England Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson would be the biggest splash yet.

Per insider Jordan Schultz of The Game Day NFL, Jackson, who’s soon to enter the free agency market, has interest from the Bengals along with the Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and Miami Dolphins.

Not only is Jackson the best cornerback set to hit free agency, he’s arguably the best player overall. In his four years in New England, the former undrafted free agent grew into a starting defensive back in Bill Belichick’s defense. 2021 was his first year as a full-time starter, and he ended up making his first Pro Bowl and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors.

Despite only starting 39 games in four years, Jackson already has 25 interceptions to his name, including 17 in the last two seasons alone. The only other player with more than 20 interceptions since 2018 is Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (23).

In fact, 25 is the most interceptions for a player’s first four years in the entire Super Bowl era!

That statistic alone could make Jackson the highest-paid cornerback in the league in a week’s time. Jalen Ramsey currently holds that distinction, and Ramsey’s deal ($20 million AAV) is precisely what Jackson wants, per NFL Network insider Mike Giardi.

Jackson might end up being worth that kind of deal, but that deal is not something you should expect the Bengals to offer. If they aren’t willing to pony up the money for Jessie Bates III, a player and leader they drafted and developed, then they sure aren’t going to give it to a free agent from another team and system.

It’s entirely plausible that the Bengals do have some level of interest in Jackson. He’s a phenomenal player who is still just 26 years old. His best days are ahead of him. He’s the kind of player that not only the Bengals like, but every team likes.

And that’s why he’s going to get paid as such.

If the Bengals end up with Jackson, it’ll be because he took significantly less money—guaranteed and non-guaranteed—just to play in Cincinnati. It will not be because the Bengals outbid the likes of the Dolphins and 49ers, who are consistent players in the top-tier free agent market.

So nice try, Jackson’s agent.