Remember Lawyer Milloy? Or Logan Mankins? Or even Deion Branch?
Of course, you do.
Although each situation was different, you can now you can add Stephon Gilmore to the list of star players’ careers with the New England Patriots that have come to a shocking end.
During his time here, Gilmore was the leader of a Patriots defense that has consistently ranked in the top third of the league for the last few seasons. He was a key piece in New England’s Super Bowl run in 2018, and then followed it up by winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 — the first cornerback to have won the award since Charles Woodson in 2009.
Gilmore inked a five-year, $65 million deal with $40 million in guarantees — the highest ever given to a defensive player in Patriots history — and it was a deal that made him one of the league’s highest-paid cornerbacks.
At the time, it was a ton of money for a top cornerback on the market but Bill Belichick jumped early at the position and paid a premium at a time where teams weren't paying a high price for elite cornerbacks. However, over the years, Gilmore’s deal set the market and we started to see cornerbacks paid higher and higher as the years added up.
However, after Gilmore’s elite play factored in with the contracts that guys like Jalen Ramsey and Darius Slay got over the years, Gilmore’s contract eventually was viewed as one of the biggest bargains across the league.
Gilmore was unhappy with his contract prior to last year and deservedly wanted a pay raise. The Patriots opted to move money from this year to last to pay the corner just about $15 million for the 2020 season. However, following Gilmore’s partially torn quad in Week 16 last season and a back-and-forth about his contract for the better part of two seasons, this is where we have ended up.
The whole situation was poorly managed by the Patriots from start to finish. J.C. Jackson is set to be a free agent following this year and the Patriots would certainly like to keep the younger, cheaper and homegrown player around, but they had a decision to make on which corner they were going to pay.
The smart move wasn’t to extend Gilmore and pay him top dollar, it was to move on a year or two ago when his value was at an all-time high.
Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 in situations like these, but given Gilmore’s age and desire to be one of the league's top-paid corners, the Patriots should have moved on a year ago. This was the likely outcome that seemed inevitable as the weeks started to add up simply because there was zero chance Gilmore was going to play a snap for the Patriots making just $7 million this season.
In a lost season last year where it was clear the Patriots had no plan at quarterback and weren’t going to contend for a title, the organization still held onto Gilmore knowing that time was eventually ticking on his future in New England and limiting the teams options going forward.
The Patriots’ secondary will be just fine with Jackson — who should be due for a big pay day from the club this offseason — leading the way. However, once it was clear Gilmore wasn’t getting a new contract here, the Patriots completely mismanaged the situation and handcuffed themselves from receiving real assets for an elite player in the league.
It’s a tough pill to swallow knowing Gilmore is out and (likely) nothing is coming in.