The New England Patriots had strong attendance for their first practice of mandatory minicamp, but star cornerback Stephon Gilmore was not among those present. The 30-year-old instead has decided to hold out while trying to push for a new contract.
Entering the final season of his deal, Gilmore carries a salary cap hit of $16.3 million in 2021. While that is the highest cap hit in the NFL for a cornerback, his salary is well below his market value: as a result of a series of contract restructures over the last three years, the former Defensive Player of the Year is scheduled to play on a salary of only $7 million.
In order to raise this number and gain some long-term security, Gilmore has now decided to sit out mandatory minicamp. He already skipped the voluntary portion of the Patriots’ offseason workout program as well, but is now potentially subject to team fines: New England could fine him up to $93,085 if he decides to stay away for all three practices this week — a certainty if previous reports turn out to be accurate.
Regardless if he is present or not, Gilmore continues to enjoy the support of his teammates.
“I support my brother,” said fellow defensive back Adrian Phillips. “I wish he was here, but I support him all the same. What he has going, whenever he gets back, he’ll let you know how that went. But, you know, that’s my guy. We’re brothers. We’re all keeping contact with each other.”
Phillips and Gilmore were both starters in the Patriots’ secondary last season, even though the latter appeared in only 11 out of a possible 16 games: Gilmore missed three games after hurting his knee in practice and later had to be placed on season-ending injured reserve due to a partially torn quad suffered in mid-December. New England’s top cornerback also missed some practice time after testing positive for Covid-19.
When Gilmore was out, the Patriots turned to J.C. Jackson as their CB1. During Monday’s practice, the fourth-year man continued to fill that role, with free agency addition Jalen Mills lining up opposite him.
While a Jackson-Mills tandem brings plenty of experience to the table, Gilmore’s qualities as a man-cover cornerback cannot be denied even as he is coming off a challenging 2020 season. Those qualities relative to other players at his position are a strong argument for him wanting a new contract.
In order to get there, Gilmore has apparently decided to go the holdout route.
“That’s a situation that I don’t want to get too far into, because it’s frankly none of my business and I don’t have a full understanding of what’s going on there,” said team captain Matthew Slater.
“Obviously, you support all your teammates whether they’re here or not. You with them well, hope they’re doing well physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. Hope their families are doing well. I feel that way about Steph, and I feel that way about all the guys that are here, as well.”
A total of five players were not spotted during the Patriots’ practice on Monday. Gilmore was joined by defensive tackle Byron Cowart as well as linebackers Chase Winovich, Terez Hall and Rashod Berry. While there is a chance that the others return at one point this week, the cornerback is expected to remain out.