BOSTON (CBS) -- If the Patriots are going to keep J.C. Jackson in Foxboro, it's looking like they'll have to sign him as a free agent.
That is according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who said Friday that it's unlikely that the Patriots will employ the franchise tag to keep Jackson under contract for another season.
"There was some wondering were the Patriots going to tag J.C. Jackson, keep him around for another year and potentially try to work out something long-term. I am told the tag is not expected to be applied to J.C. Jackson," Rapoport said. "Which means Mr. INT, one of the best ball hawks in the NFL and one of the best playmakers in the NFL regardless of position is expected to be available for anyone."
Rapoport expects a number of teams to try to sign the 26-year-old.
"And for a corner market where there are some really good corners, he may be the best one, and certainly teams are going to be extremely interested," Rapoport said.
If the Patriots were to apply the franchise tag on Jackson, it would keep him in New England for another season, at a cost of $17.3 million. He may not end up landing an annual salary that high, but he's sure to bring in more guaranteed money on a longer-term deal in free agency.
Not applying the tag doesn't necessarily mean that the Patriots aren't interested in Jackson. They've let some high-profile free agents hit the market -- notably Tedy Bruschi, Dont'a Hightower, Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty -- before ultimately signing the player to stay in New England.
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