One of the biggest stories in training camp and the preseason for the New England Patriots was the status of CB Stephon Gilmore. He’s an elite defender and and critical piece in the secondary for the Pats, but has yet to step on the field this year and now won’t until at least week 7 because he’s on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. There has been some clear animosity and contract issues with Gilmore this offseason and it feels like the standoff between Bill Belichick and Gilmore will not end well for the Pats.
The 30-year old Gilmore’s 2020 season ended early after a quad injury that led to surgery and lots of offseason rehab. His actual health now remains somewhat of a question since no one has seen him on the field in months. Due to a contract dispute and seemingly a disagreement on a contract extension and contract value, he’s in the last year of his deal, Gilmore was a holdout and missed OTAs and minicamp earlier this year. He reported to Gillette Stadium in July to end the holdout, but was then placed on the PUP list, where he has remained since.
Gilmore is slated to make $7 million this season, after $13 million last year, based on the way his contract was structured when he signed the 5-yr $65 million deal in 2017 with the Pats. It seems that Gilmore assumed that if his performance was still high, they would renegotiate the last year of his deal (this year) and potentially talk about an extension, but it appears the Pats haven’t made a generous-enough offer to satisfy him (or any offer depending on who you believe). From the outside, it appears the relationship has eroded to the point of Bill Belichick trying to prove that he doesn’t need Gilmore to be successful.
The most frustrating piece to me is that Gilmore is a top-tier CB in the league and seems to just be asking to be paid a more reasonable salary. At $7 million, it puts his contract on par with Jonathan Jones as the 27th highest paid CB in the league (strictly by salary, not cap hit). Gilmore is definitely a top-10 CB, if not a top-5 or even top-3 talent and he knows that. Even as he approaches 31 this week, Gilmore is incredibly valuable on a short-term deal if healthy, which is the big question.
“I just want what I’m worth, however is plays out. Every player should be paid what they’re worth. That’s just how it is.”Stephon Gilmore in July 2021
To me this just screams mismanagement from the Patriots ownership. With Gilmore healthy and back in the lineup, the Pats are a serious contender and can make a big playoff push. Without him, it’s yet to be seen, but it’s a significantly weaker secondary that may struggle against top passing games. It forces the Pats to rely more heavily on CBs like Jalen Mills and Joejuan Williams who are decent as your depth 4th or 5th corners, but get exposed as a 2nd or 3rd behind CB J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones. It also puts more pressure on SS Devin McCourty to help in coverage.
If Gilmore is really injured and there is a deal in place once he’s healthy for him to come back, then great, but as of now things seem to be trending toward a messy separation. I think we have already seen Gilmore’s last game in a Pats uniform, but boy do I hope I’m wrong.