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Has Donte Jackson Played His Last Game with the Carolina Panthers?

Carolina fans may have seen the last of Donte Jackson.

Monday evening, news broke that Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson would miss the remainder of the 2021 season with a groin injury. 

Earlier this season when 1st round pick Jaycee Horn went down with a broken foot, the Panthers made a couple of trades to bolster the cornerback room. First, they acquired C.J. Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars and then traded for Stephon Gilmore a week later. The move for Henderson was viewed as a long-term play according to Panthers GM Scott Fitterer while the trade for Gilmore was to help the team win now although extending him beyond the 2021 season could be of interest to the team depending on his performance and health.

At the moment of the Gilmore trade, Fitterer told reporters that extending Donte Jackson was a priority for the front office. 

"Donte is not affected by this [trade] at all. We would like for him to be a part of our future moving forward and I think he wants to be here. He's a priority when I talk about who is next in line [for an extension]."

Since those comments were made, Jackson played really good football and arguably some of the best in his four-year career. The past two weeks weren't all that kind to him as he failed to slow down Washington's Terry McLaurin and Miami's Jaylen Waddle but to his defense, everyone has had issues covering those two in man coverage.

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Regardless of what the Panthers decide to do with the secondary in the offseason, they should be in great shape moving forward. With Jaycee Horn and fifth-round pick Keith Taylor Jr. showing some promise, I would imagine that Fitterer would like to have a pair of veterans to go with those two youngsters. Gilmore, Jackson, and Rashaan Melvin will become free agents this offseason while A.J. Bouye will be under contract through the 2022 season. With the way Jackson played the first ten games of the year, one would think that he is going to want a pretty big contract, and rightfully so. If that's the case, I don't know if the Panthers will want to shell out a ton of money to him knowing that they can start Horn and bring back Gilmore for a much cheaper price. 

Carolina has a ton of needs that need to be addressed, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. If they can allocate some of that money to the retooling of the offensive line or finding the answer at quarterback, they'll do it. However, if the Panthers do agree to terms with Jackson on an extension, I would assume that means they will move on from Gilmore. Bringing back Jackson along with Horn means that Gilmore would be rotating in as he is currently doing. At this point in his career, I don't know how attractive that would be to Gilmore. With more football behind him than there is left in front of him, he wants to play and you can't blame him. 

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