The New England Patriots apparently kicked the tires on Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman before signing former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore, which, whaaaaaaaaaaaaat, that’s awesome. Sherman would have brought Brandon Browner-level swagger to the secondary and would have just cranked the Patriots wild offseason up to 11.
While Sherman is a better player than Gilmore, it’s clear that the Patriots have a plan in mind with the cornerback position: they want to get bigger and they want to use press coverage.
Sherman is 6’3, Gilmore is 6’1, and CB Malcolm Butler- the player the Patriots won’t commit to- is a considerably shorter 5’10.
While all three players are good press coverage players, Sherman and Gilmore offer the ability to match-up against bigger “prototypical” #1 receivers, while the Patriots often kept Butler away from receivers taller than 6-feet tall whenever possible.
The Patriots had no qualms putting Butler in coverage of the likes of #1 receivers like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, or Jarvis Landry, but they preferred to put Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage of Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones with safety help.
New England face The Monstars at wide receiver in 2017, with Hopkins, Brown, Thomas, Sanders, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Keenan Allen, Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and DeSean Jackson all on the schedule, in addition to Watkins and the other receivers in the AFC East. The Patriots need the cornerback position to be as strong as possible.
Acquiring a bigger cornerback like Sherman or Gilmore would give the Patriots more freedom in the secondary because they wouldn’t have to guarantee safety help against those bigger #1 receivers, allowing the defense to offer more disguises in coverage and creates more potential for turnovers.
Gilmore, Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, and Jonathan Jones should offer enough press coverage ability to match-up against any trio of receivers that comes their way, regardless of receiver skill set.