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

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as defensive As the backs meeting was winding down, Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco walked to the front of the room.

It was Week 6, the group’s first meeting since the Chargers traded cornerbacks Jesse Jackson To the New England Patriots in March 2022 in exchange for a late-round pick, just one year after signing him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Telesco stood in front of the group and began apologizing.

Telesco told the group that signing Jackson was a mistake, multiple team sources said. He apologized for continuing to give Jackson a chance, even though Jackson regularly showed he wasn’t as committed as the rest of the team while being one of the Chargers’ highest-paid players.

Telesco called the move a “swing and miss.”

The apology was a startling admission, but Telesco’s points were no secret in the company. Jackson struggled to become the player the Chargers thought they would get after his four seasons in New England, which included a second-team All-Pro selection. Jackson played seven games in two seasons in Los Angeles. He missed 14 of 22 games due to injury and was benched in his last two games as a Charger.

When he played, Jackson’s stats were among the worst of his career, with a passer rating high in targets and yards allowed per completion.

“I’m still confused as to why, but like I said, I can’t comment on it. It was the coach’s decision,” Jackson said after being benched for the Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings. “I can tell you I’m confused. I don’t know what’s going on, but that’s not the real answer to why I didn’t play last week or why I didn’t start. That’s on me.”

Many within the organization believe that Jackson approached practice with a “sloppy” attitude and did not respond well to coaching, according to team sources. In the Chargers’ Week 4 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Jackson refused to go into the lineup after being benched for the first three quarters, telling coaches he hadn’t warmed up enough, according to team sources.

In that same game, the quarterback Justin Herbert Playing with a broken left middle finger, an injury in which Herbert’s bone pierced his skin. Herbert never missed a picture. The combination of those moments was the final straw for the Chargers, according to team sources.

They traded Jackson and a 2025 seventh-round pick for a 2025 sixth-round pick from the Patriots. Eventually, the Chargers paid Jackson $38.5 million for seven games over two seasons. Entering their “Monday Night Football” matchup against the New York Jets (8:20 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Chargers are allowing the most passing yards per game in the NFL (297.4).

“A job to stop — two years’ worth of work,” coach Brandon Staley said after the trade. “We just felt it was the best course for our team.”

When asked if the “body of work” Staley was referring to was specific to on-field or off-field performance, Staley was direct.

“By all means.”

Patriot signed Jackson entered Maryland as an undrafted free agent in 2018, and he quickly became a starter and impact player, finishing second among all rookies (3).

From there, Jackson emerged as one of the best players at his position with a knack for creating turnovers and press-man coverage. In his four seasons with the Patriots, Jackson allowed a passer rating of 42.0 as the closest defender in coverage, best in the NFL among defensive backs with at least 250 targets. Despite one interception since 2022, Jackson’s 26 interceptions are the most in that span since he entered the league.

“Any garbage you throw around, he’s going to pick it up,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Jackson in 2021.

In his final year in New England, Jackson had the best season of his career. He finished second in the NFL with eight interceptions and was a second-team All-Pro.

When Jackson hits free agency, the Chargers make sense for a number of reasons. Jackson was a 7-on-7 teammate with Chargers safety Darwin James at high school; Chargers wide receivers coach Chris Beatty was a coach when Jackson was at Maryland in 2016; Former Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill and Derrick Ansley, then the Chargers’ defensive backs coach and now defensive coordinator, recruited Jackson out of high school.

But the most obvious reason was that cornerback was arguably the defense’s glaring need: Jackson’s interception total in 2021 was three fewer than the Chargers’ total (11).

Elsewhere in the team were stars: Joey Bosa James at defensive line and safety. Jackson would give the Chargers a legitimate top cornerback that could shadow the no. 1 receiver, and a star on their defense.

In a video shared by the team, Staley told Jackson that he liked the ability of cornerback Chaya No. 1 receiver ie CeeDee Lamb Dallas Cowboys and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers among others.

“Durable. Young. Championship player. This guy is definitely there,” Staley said.

Still, for the Chargers, it wasn’t just that Jackson was a great player, but that he fit into the team’s culture.

“The biggest thing when you’re building a team is the difference between just gathering good players,” Telesco said in the video, “and putting together a team that fits together and complements each other.”

Jackson’s contract, and specifically the $40 million in guaranteed money, was a clear indication that the Chargers believed Jackson would thrive in Los Angeles.

But that’s not how it works.

He elected to have ankle surgery in August 2022, which was supposed to be a minor procedure to correct the discomfort. The recovery kept him out for 1 week, and after the Week 2 game, the ankle injury flared up again and he was out for 3 weeks.

Four weeks later, Jackson ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee and was out for the season. In the five games Jackson played, he allowed career highs in yards per completion (20.9), passer rating when targeted (149.3), and four touchdowns, the second-most of his career.

Jackson spent the offseason rehabbing his knee injury to prepare for training camp in July and started in Week 1 of the 2023 season against the Miami Dolphins. Jackson got his first interception as a Charger, but he and the secondary largely struggled.

Jackson had a 30-yard pass interference penalty that set up a field goal for the Dolphins before halftime and allowed three catches for 99 yards and a touchdown as the closest defender in coverage, according to Next Gen Stats.

The struggles continued in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans, and Jackson was benched and traded just one week later.

Jackson and later After the Chargers’ secondary struggled in two losses to open this season, Jackson was a healthy player in Week 3 against the Vikings. It was the first time Jackson had been inactive since his rookie season.

Staley downplayed the benching, saying he went with the “right team” for the game. But the moment indicated just how far Jackson had fallen from the organization’s good graces. The Chargers were matching up with one of the top receivers in the league Justin JeffersonBut their highest-paid cornerback was healthy on the sidelines in a hooded sweatshirt and shorts.

Staley’s explanation was hard to fathom but Jackson’s off-field issues may have had as much to do with his struggles playing as he did on the field.

Jackson was approaching practices and meetings without a “sense of urgency,” team sources said. He didn’t respond well to Chargers defensive coaches who chastised him like others for missed assignments or calls, team sources said.

When the Chargers benched Jackson in Week 3, those habits worsened, team sources said. Then, a day later, an arrest warrant was issued for Jackson in Massachusetts for an unpaid speeding ticket. Later that week, Jackson said that the arrest warrant had been resolved, that he was distracted by his benching and was not 100% healthy.

The Chargers changed pace and activated Jackson for Week 4 against the Raiders, but Jackson remained on the sidelines for nearly three quarters at cornerback. Michael Davis Tweaked his ankle, and called for Coach Jackson to enter the game. But Jackson refused and stayed on the sideline with his shoes open because he wasn’t warm enough to play, team sources said. Jackson was traded four days later.

Still, not everyone in the organization was down on Jackson. For cornerbacks Yes Sir TaylorJackson was a guy he wanted to learn different coverage techniques, and he attributed Jackson’s setbacks to a new situation.

“It’s hard to come to a new place,” Taylor said. “He’s been in New England for four years, and any transition takes time, and learning the defense, getting him rolling, adjusting to guys. Everything’s new for him, so I don’t blame him. For anything. What you hear. , I didn’t know all that.

But Taylor and other defensive backs said Jackson’s departure has given the team some clarity and relief, especially for Davis, who is now the starter at outside cornerback.

Davis described the first four games as “a little shaky” for the defensive backs as he and Jackson compete for the starting job each week.

“It was kind of unknown. Now that he’s not here, everybody knows their own role,” Davis said. “Roles are now defined, so to speak. Before roles weren’t defined for anyone. There were a lot of moving parts.”

With Jackson gone, the Chargers added a cornerback Essang BasiWho now wears Jackson’s 27 and occupies his old locker.

Meanwhile, Jackson said he was “happy” after his October. 8 debuted with the Patriots.

“Just feels like home,” Jackson told reporters. “It’s good to be home. I feel appreciated here. I’m excited to be back.”

The Patriots sidelined Jackson for the first two series of Sunday’s loss to the Washington Commanders. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Jackson wasn’t benched, saying “everybody played.” Jackson declined to speak to reporters after the game.

In the three games since Jackson’s departure, the Chargers’ struggles in the secondary have continued, with Davis taking over as the starter. Pass defense is one of this team’s most notable weaknesses. Two weeks ago, this group allowed the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes Throwing for 321 yards in the first half, second most in a half of his career.

“Things didn’t work out exactly how we needed it to work for both sides,” James said. “I think it was best for both sides. Like I said, we wanted it to work. It didn’t happen. That’s what happens in the NFL.”

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