The New England Patriots project to be one of the most active teams once free agency gets underway next week, and that has largely distracted from cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s messy contract situation, which has been an offseason theme for two consecutive years now.
There was talk last offseason of the Patriots shopping Gilmore and that narrative continued up to the 2020 trade deadline before a string of injuries, including season-ending quad surgery, derailed any possibility of a deal coming to fruition.
Now, the Patriots are faced with the same headache.
Should they trade Gilmore, who’s been criminally underpaid for the last few seasons?
Or renegotiate his contract and make him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league as his reputation and track record commands?
However, according to insider Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, the 30-year-old star’s quad injury has sparked red flags among potential suitors, so unloading him might not be as painless as previously conceived for the Patriots.
Stephon Gilmore’s season-ending quad injury makes trading him a lot more complicated for the Patriots.
“Gilmore’s injury at the end of the year complicates what seemed to be a fait accompli in midseason—that Gilmore would be traded to a place that would be willing to pay him what New England didn’t want to on an extension,” wrote Breer. “Gilmore’s number for 2021 is just $7.91 million. Whether he’d play at that number elsewhere is another question.”
Gilmore is entering the final year of his contract, and though he’s slated to account for $15.03 million against the cap, his $7 million salary is absolutely laughable when you consider that he’s two years removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with six interceptions and 20 passes defended.
The Patriots have been reluctant (or resistant) in terms of signing Gilmore to an extension, and if they aren’t willing to trade him or restructure his contract, chances are he embraces a holdout until a compromise is reached, and nobody wants that.
With that in mind, trading Gilmore is clearly in New England’s best interest, as doing so would salvage approximately $7.3 million in cap space. However, his injury really makes you wonder if they’d be able to get as much as they were demanding last offseason — per reports, they wanted a first-round pick and a young asset in return for him.
Though Gilmore’s market being abbreviated after his injury-plagued campaign would be an unfortunate turn of events for the Patriots, they really have nobody to blame but themselves for not trading him when his value peaked last offseason.
At that point, their reluctance to sign him long-term was well-documented, but they bizarrely insisted on keeping him around for another year despite being fully aware that odds were they would only lose value on him as he approached free agency.
There’s extensive belief among NFL executives that the Patriots will end up trading Gilmore this offseason to a team willing to sign him to a new deal. However, this report suggests that list of teams has shrunk significantly, so buckle up for yet another offseason full of controversy regarding the Pro Bowl cornerback’s future in New England.