The AFC East is about to lose one of its strongest cover corners.
Will the one who wears navy and red follow in his footsteps? At the very least, Stephon Gilmore seems less desperate to move than his fellow underpaid compatriot Xavien Howard.
The last time we heard from Gilmore, he was just trying to get a fair equivalence from the Patriots entering the final year of his contract, or perhaps a new deal entirely — though that seems unlikely, with JC Jackson’s payday also coming down the line.
Mum was the word for Bill Belichick when everyone reported to camp this week, too. He had less than no interest in addressing either Gilmore or N’Keal Harry, somehow the two biggest traffic drivers of the latter part of this offseason.
Perhaps that will change how that Howard has emerged from a similar slumber to Gilmore and rattled the cage in Miami?
We suspected it all along, but the ending to the Dolphins’ portion of this story became obvious and unfortunate on Tuesday afternoon.
Xavien Howard’s trade ask puts pressure on Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots.
Howard’s current contract, which he sadly seems to have misunderstood at the outset (or the deal was misrepresented by an authority figure), ties him to Miami until 2025 at varying base salaries. His money peaks at $12.375 million next season before dipping to $11.4 and $11.65 million the next two years.
He’s not scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency until age 32, meaning his final big payday has already arrived unless he manages to wriggle his way out of town with a renegotiation packed in.
Gilmore’s five-year, $65 million deal pales in comparison to Howard’s contract, and the Patriots DB has gathered more accolades, but has also probably slipped behind his Miami counterpart reputationally following 2021. This season, Gilmore’s owed only $7 million in base salary, and in classic Pats fashion, he earned $18 million of his money in an immediate signing bonus. This final year’s nearly free, and if the figures of the contract hadn’t already pressurized the situation, the Howard bombshell certainly did.
A few weeks back, we heard a new deal was more likely for Gilmore than a trade. Since then, though, it’s been crickets from New England. Does Howard’s presence on the market make it more likely Gilmore stays, considering there’s now a preferred option available (remember, Gilmore’s nursing injury troubles)? Is this relationship just as untenable as whatever corroded in Miami?
The pressure was already on between the two silent sides in Foxborough, but the superior Howard taking the reins in his negotiations has further changed the equation.