It doesn’t appear that the New England Patriots will use their franchise tag this offseason, at least on their top cornerback.

Cornerback Jonathan Jones won’t receive the franchise tag before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. So, Jones will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 15.

There is some good news though for Patriots fans who are hoping for Jones to return. The Patriots “certainly” hope to re-sign before the legal tampering period begins on Monday, March 13, MassLive’s Mark Daniels reported Tuesday.

Jones has also stated a desire to remain in New England, where he’s been since the Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016.

“I would hope so. I would hope so,” Jones said when asked about possibly remaining in New England by Phil Perry on the “Next Pats” podcast. “That’s where I’ve spent my career. It’s what I know, it’s what I love. New England is home for me in that aspect. So, we’ll see. We’ll see how free agency turns out, and we’ll take it from there.”

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However, it looks like the Patriots will have some competition in trying to keep Jones. A “number of suitors” are expected to pursue Jones in free agency, the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported Tuesday.

Jones had a bit of a breakout season in 2022. After spending the first six seasons of his career as one of the game’s better nickel corners, Jones moved to the outside as a boundary corner. He had success early as Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the game’s top corners in the league in the first half of the season. However, he struggled against some elite receivers in the second half of the season (most notably Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs).

Still, Jones put up good numbers in 2022. He had a career-high four interceptions and 11 passes defended. Opposing quarterbacks completed 46 of 86 passes for 543 yards and six touchdowns with a 76.8 passer rating when targeting Jones last season.

“Most” teams still view Jones as a nickel corner, but his play at outside corner in 2022 helped “heighten awareness about his talent,” according to Giardi.

Jones isn’t the only notable Patriots impending free agent. Jakobi Meyers is also set to hit free agency. The Patriots and Meyers have reportedly had contract talks, but not much progress has been made.