After being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, expectations were naturally high for Stephon Gilmore entering 2020. While he did perform at a shutdown level again for much of the season, he also faced his fair share of challenges and ultimately had to end his fourth campaign as the New England Patriots’ top cornerback on injured reserve.
Gilmore was sent there after partially tearing his quad in a December meeting with the Miami Dolphins. The injury forced the veteran to undergo surgery, and to focus on rehabbing rather than finishing the year on the field.
That rehab process is apparently going well. According to a report by NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, Gilmore is not expected to miss any offseason workouts and be full-go once the regular season gets kicked off in September.
“Gilmore injured his leg late in the year, had to go through rehab, but he is doing great right now,” Giardi said during an on-air appearance before the start of free agency. “He’s down in Miami, he’s running, he feels good, going to be ready for the season, doesn’t expect to miss any time at all including if they get into the spring and actually have some OTAs.”
The quad injury was not the first medical issue the star defender had to deal with during the 2020 season. Gilmore also missed time on the Coronavirus reserve list in October, and later that same month was forced to sit out three games after hurting his knee in practice. He quickly resumed his role as New England’s top cornerback and one of the NFL’s best players his position has to offer after his return to the lineup, but failed to finish the season healthy.
Now it appears he is on a good path again. Whether that path leads him to take the field as a Patriot again in September remains to be seen, though. The 30-year-old, after all, has been the subject of trade speculation going all the way back to last year.
New England is reportedly “not actively shopping” the star defender, but the team and Gilmore’s camp are still trying to find a solution to his contract situation.
The veteran is counting $16.3 million against the Patriots’ salary cap — the highest number on the team — but as a result of a series of contract restructures over the last three years is scheduled to play on a salary of only $7 million in 2021. Neither side is expecting that the four-time Pro Bowler will actually play under this deal, but the question is whether or not negotiations can lead to a satisfying outcome for both parties.
If not, the Patriots eventually moving on from Gilmore still appears to be on an option. For the time being, however, New England’s cornerback group remains among the deepest in football.
With restricted free agent J.C. Jackson likely to return after being tendered at the second-round level, and with the team investing a four-year deal in hyper-versatile Jalen Mills, the quality and depth at the position is impressive regardless of whether or not Jason McCourty is retained after joining the open market last week. Add starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, and you get a strong assortment of talent around Gilmore.