Typically, the New England Patriots enter free agency rather slowly. This year, however, was different as the team made one of the most notable acquisitions in the league by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a 5-year, $65.0 million contract. The 26-year old was not the first big-name defensive back to catch the Patriots’ attention, though.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, New England was one of the teams asking the Seattle Seahawks about cornerback Richard Sherman:
Before the #Patriots signed Gilmore, they were among the teams that inquired. Others did, as well
How real the Patriots’ interest is or whether they simply did their due diligence by inquiring has not been reported. Fact is, though, that New England obviously felt more comfortable going in another direction: Towards Gilmore, who is both a younger and – even though his contract seems to suggest otherwise – cheaper option at the position.
Sherman is entering the third year of a 4-year, $57.4 million contract extension he signed in 2014. Consequently, his salary cap hits for the 2017 and 2018 seasons are currently scheduled at $13.6 and $13.2 million. For comparison, Gilmore’s combined cap hits over the next two years are $5.6 million lower than what Sherman would have cost on a non-restructured deal.
Considering this, as well as a) the fact that Gilmore is 2.5 years younger and b) the compensation the Seahawks likely would have commanded for their star cornerback, it is no surprise the Patriots opted to not go after Sherman more aggressively. However, the sheer fact that the team showed interest in the four-time Pro Bowler reflects New England’s desire to improve the size of its boundary cornerbacks.
At 6’1, Eric Rowe was the biggest corner on the Patriots’ roster entering the offseason. In acquiring Gilmore, who is also 6’1, the team added another taller player at the position. Needless to say that the 6’3 Sherman would have also fit in nicely – at least in this department.