The New England Patriots are expected to sign former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore to a monster contract today, projected to be around $14 million per season. That is top five cornerback money, which shows how much the Patriots value is ability.
So who is Gilmore? What does he add to the Patriots? Why would head coach Bill Belichick make this move? Let’s take a closer look.
Patriots view Gilmore as a true #1 cornerback
Gilmore has been asked to shadow opposing #1 receivers since he entered the league as the 10th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. He can play both zone and man, but he’s at his best when he’s locked on to an opposing receiver for an entire game. He has the versatility to play inside, as evidenced by his history of covering TE Rob Gronkowski, and outside on the sideline.
The Patriots wouldn’t give Gilmore such a large contract if they did not consider him a #1 cornerback- and he is now projected to be the second-highest paid player on the Patriots, after QB Tom Brady.
Gilmore is a proven player that will join FS Devin McCourty and potentially CB Malcolm Butler to form one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
There are concerns about Malcolm Butler’s future
The Patriots placed the first-round tender on Butler, a restricted free agent, but the two sides haven’t really negotiated an extension. The Patriots have a price figure for Butler that hasn’t changed, according to CSNNE, and Butler doesn’t want it.
Butler will reach out to the open market to see what type of money other teams would be willing to pay. Butler hasn’t been happy playing under his current contract situation, and that definitely won’t change if he plays under his current first-round tender.
But that also opens the door for another team to potentially swoop in to sign Butler. Any team can give the Patriots their 2017 first round pick for the rights to sign Butler, and it’s not out of the question for a team at the end of the first round to strongly consider that option. And if that’s the case, then maybe the Patriots would be happy to take the extra first round pick.
Additionally, there is still the risk of Butler leaving after 2017 if the two parties don’t agree to an extension. Having Gilmore in the building mitigates some of that risk.
What does Gilmore’s contract imply about Logan Ryan’s price tag?
I always thought there was a chance the Patriots could retain Ryan and move forward with Ryan and Butler as the corners for a few more years. What Gilmore’s contract signifies to me is a price for Ryan that’s far too great for the Patriots to match.
Former Seahawks #2 cornerback Byron Maxwell signed a contract valued at $10.5 million per season and many speculate that Ryan’s ultimate contract could fall into that range.
Now Ryan is an excellent #2 cornerback. He’s fantastic and does everything that the Patriots want. But would you rather have Ryan at $10 million per year, or a #1 cornerback like Gilmore at $14 million per year?
Patriots still have a ridiculous amount of cap space
The Patriots are entering free agency with roughly $55.3 million in cap space, the sixth-highest total in the league. Let’s say that Gilmore’s contract will cost the Patriots $14 million against the cap.
$41.3 million would represent the ninth-most cap space in the entire league. The Patriots can still do a lot of grocery shopping.
When you consider that the 2017 cap hit will likely be far less than $14 million, because the Patriots backload contracts with large base salaries, then this signing shouldn’t really affect the Patriots plans to retain their own free agents like LB Dont’a Hightower.
Is this linked to the TE Dwayne Allen trade?
I’m just speculating, but Gilmore was unaware of the Patriots interest until Thursday morning. What changed?
Perhaps the Patriots had a certain amount of money allotted for tight end and for cornerback. Let’s say they totaled $19 million. When the Patriots made the decision to acquire Allen and to move on from TE Martellus Bennett, the Patriots opened up around $4 million in cap space for 2017.
So what if the Patriots saw an opportunity to reallocate those funds to another position, and sign a star defender like Gilmore?
Again, this is me just speculating. But it’s something to think about.