Why the Chargers traded J.C. Jackson one season after an $82.5M deal

AS THE DEFENSIVE backs assembly was ending, Los Angeles Chargers basic supervisor Tom Telesco walked to the entrance of the room.

It was Week 6, the group’s first assembly for the reason that Chargers traded cornerback J.C. Jackson to the New England Patriots for a swap of late-round picks, simply over a 12 months after signing him to a five-year $82.5 million contract in March of 2022. Telesco stood in entrance of the group and started to apologize.

Telesco informed the group that signing Jackson was a mistake, in accordance with a number of workforce sources. He apologized for persevering with to present Jackson alternatives, regardless of Jackson routinely exhibiting that he wasn’t as dedicated as the remainder of the workforce whereas being one of many Chargers’ highest paid gamers.

Telesco known as the transfer a “swing and a miss.”

The apology was a stunning admission, however Telesco’s factors weren’t a secret within the group. Jackson struggled to be the participant the Chargers thought they had been getting after his 4 seasons in New England, which included a second-team All-Professional choice. In two seasons in Los Angeles, Jackson performed seven video games. He missed 14 of twenty-two video games on account of accidents and was benched in his last two video games as a Charger.

When he did play, Jackson’s stats had been among the many worst in his profession, with highs in passer score whereas focused and yards allowed per completion.

“I am nonetheless confused on why, however like I mentioned, I can not put my opinion on it. It was the coach’s resolution,” Jackson mentioned after he was benched for the Week 3 matchup towards the Minnesota Vikings. “I can inform you I am confused. I do not know what is going on on, however that is not the actual reply of why I did not play final week or why I did not begin. That is above me.”

Many inside the group believed Jackson approached practices with a “lackadaisical” perspective and did not reply effectively to teaching, in accordance with workforce sources. Within the Chargers’ Week 4 sport towards the Las Vegas Raiders, Jackson refused to go in after he was benched for the primary three quarters, telling coaches he wasn’t warmed up sufficient, in accordance with workforce sources.

In that very same sport, quarterback Justin Herbert performed with a fractured left center finger, an harm by which Herbert’s bone punctured his pores and skin. Herbert did not miss any snaps. The juxtaposition of these moments was the ultimate straw for the Chargers, in accordance with workforce sources.

They traded Jackson and a 2025 seventh-round decide for a 2025 sixth-round decide from the Patriots. In the end, the Chargers paid Jackson $38.5 million for seven video games over two seasons. Getting into their “Monday Evening Soccer” matchup towards the New York Jets (8:20 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Chargers are permitting essentially the most passing yards per sport within the NFL (297.4).

“There is a physique of labor to go off of — two years’ value of a physique of labor,” coach Brandon Staley mentioned after the commerce. “We simply felt like this was the perfect course for our workforce.”

When requested if “the physique of labor” Staley was referring to was particular to efficiency on the sphere or off the sphere, Staley was direct.

“In all methods.”

THE PATRIOTS SIGNED Jackson as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2018, and he rapidly developed right into a starter and impression participant, ending second amongst all rookies in interceptions (3).

From there, Jackson emerged as probably the greatest gamers at his place with a knack for creating turnovers and excelling in press-man protection. Over his 4 seasons with the Patriots, Jackson allowed a passer score of 42.0 as the closest defender in protection, the perfect within the NFL amongst defensive backs with a minimal of 250 targets. Regardless of one interception since 2022, Jackson’s 26 interceptions since he entered the league are essentially the most in that span.

“You permit any trash mendacity round, he will decide it up,” Patriots coach Invoice Belichick mentioned of Jackson in 2021.

In his last 12 months in New England, Jackson had the perfect season of his profession. He completed second within the NFL with eight interceptions and was a second-team All-Professional.

When Jackson hit free company, the Chargers made sense for a lot of causes. Jackson was 7-on-7 teammates with Chargers security Derwin James in highschool; Chargers huge receivers coach Chris Beatty was a coach at Maryland in 2016 when Jackson was there; former Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill and Derrick Ansley, who was then the Chargers defensive backs coach and is now defensive coordinator, recruited Jackson out of highschool.

However the obvious cause was that cornerback was arguably the protection’s most obvious want: Jackson’s interception whole in 2021 was three lower than the Chargers’ whole (11) that season.

The workforce had stars elsewhere: Joey Bosa on the line of defense and James at security. Jackson would give the Chargers a professional high cornerback who might shadow No. 1 receivers, and a star at each stage of their protection.

In a video shared by the workforce, Staley informed Jackson he appreciated the cornerback’s capability to shadow No. 1 receivers equivalent to CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, amongst others.

“Sturdy. Younger. Championship participant. Should have this man,” Staley mentioned.

Nonetheless, for the Chargers, it wasn’t simply that Jackson was an excellent participant, however he appeared to suit the workforce’s tradition.

“The large factor whenever you’re workforce constructing is there’s a distinction between amassing simply good gamers,” Telesco mentioned within the video, “and placing a workforce collectively that matches collectively and enhances one another.”

Jackson’s deal, and particularly the $40 million in assured cash, was a transparent indication that the Chargers believed Jackson would thrive in Los Angeles.

However that is not the way it labored out.

He elected to have ankle surgical procedure in August of 2022, which was speculated to be a minor process to right discomfort. The restoration stored him out of Week 1, and after enjoying Week 2, the ankle harm flared up once more, and he was out for Week 3.

4 weeks later, Jackson ruptured the patellar tendon in his proper knee and was out for the season. Over the 5 video games Jackson did play, he allowed profession highs in yards per completion (20.9), passing score when focused (149.3), and allowed 4 touchdowns, the second-most in his profession.

Jackson spent the offseason rehabbing his knee harm in time to be prepared for coaching camp in July and began in Week 1 of the 2023 season towards the Miami Dolphins. Jackson received his first interception as a Charger, however he and the secondary largely struggled.

Jackson had a 30-yard cross interference penalty that arrange a discipline purpose for the Dolphins earlier than halftime and allowed three catches for 99 yards and a landing as the closest defender in protection, in accordance with Subsequent Gen Stats.

The struggles continued in Week 2 towards the Tennessee Titans, and Jackson was benched and traded simply over every week later.

AFTER JACKSON AND the Chargers’ secondary struggled in two losses to open this season, Jackson was a wholesome inactive in Week 3 towards the Vikings. It was the primary time Jackson had been inactive since his rookie season.

Staley downplayed the benching, saying he went with the “proper group” for the sport. However the second signified how a lot Jackson had fallen out of the group’s good graces. The Chargers had been matching up with one of many league’s high receivers in Justin Jefferson, however their highest paid cornerback was on the sidelines wholesome in a hooded sweatshirt and shorts.

Staley’s clarification was arduous to know however it might have had as a lot to do with Jackson’s points off the sphere because it did together with his struggling play.

Jackson had been approaching apply and conferences and not using a “sense of urgency,” workforce sources mentioned. He did not reply effectively to Chargers defensive coaches who reprimanded him the identical manner they did others for missed assignments or calls, workforce sources mentioned.

When the Chargers benched Jackson in Week 3, these habits solely received worse, workforce sources mentioned. Then, a day later, an arrest warrant for an unpaid rushing ticket was issued for Jackson in Massachusetts. Later that week, Jackson mentioned the arrest warrant was resolved, that he was confused by his benching and was not 100% wholesome.

The Chargers reversed course and made Jackson energetic for Week 4 towards the Raiders, however Jackson stood on the sidelines for practically three quarters till cornerback Michael Davis tweaked his ankle, and coaches known as for Jackson to enter the sport. However Jackson refused and stayed on the sideline together with his sneakers untied, citing that he wasn’t heat sufficient to play, workforce sources mentioned. Jackson was traded 4 days later.

Nonetheless, not everybody within the group had grown pissed off with Jackson. For cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor, Jackson was somebody he might hunt down to study completely different protection methods, and he attributed Jackson’s hurdles to being in a brand new state of affairs.

“It is arduous coming into a brand new place,” Taylor mentioned. “He was in New England for 4 years, and any transition takes time, and it simply took time for him to get rolling to study the protection, to slot in with the fellows. The whole lot is new for him, so I do not fault him for something. All of the issues that you simply hear, that is not the J.C. I knew.”

However Taylor and different defensive backs mentioned Jackson’s departure gave the group some readability and reduction, significantly for Davis, who’s now the starter at exterior cornerback.

Davis described the primary 4 video games as “a bit of bit shaky” for the defensive backs on account of him and Jackson competing for the beginning job every week.

“It was form of simply the unknown. Now that he isn’t right here, everyone is aware of their very own function,” Davis mentioned. “The roles are outlined now, so to talk. The roles earlier than weren’t outlined for anyone. There have been loads of transferring elements.”

With Jackson gone, the Chargers added cornerback Essang Bassey, who now wears Jackson’s 27 and occupies his previous locker.

Jackson, in the meantime, mentioned he was “joyful” following his Oct. 8 debut with the Patriots.

“Simply looks like residence,” Jackson informed reporters. “Good to be residence. I really feel appreciated right here. I am excited to be again.”

The Patriots stored Jackson on the sidelines for the opening two collection in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Commanders. Patriots coach Invoice Belichick mentioned Jackson wasn’t benched, saying “everyone performed.” Jackson declined to speak to reporters post-game.

In three video games since Jackson’s departure, with Davis taking up because the starter, the Chargers’ struggles within the secondary have continued. The cross protection is one in every of this workforce’s most important weaknesses. Two weeks in the past, this group allowed Kansas Metropolis Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to throw for 321 yards within the first half, the second-most in a half in his profession.

“Issues simply did not work out how we would have liked it to work out for either side,” James mentioned. “I really feel prefer it was what was greatest for either side. Like I’ve mentioned, we needed it to work. It simply did not occur. That is what occurs within the NFL.”

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