When the New England Patriots held their mandatory minicamp last month Stephon Gilmore was nowhere to be found. The star cornerback held out of the three-day camp in an apparent contract dispute: entering the final year of his contract with just the 25th highest possible cash intake at his position, he is looking for a new or adjusted deal.
While it remains to be seen how the situation will be resolved, it seem as if both sides are open to working out a deal — at least according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Appearing on SportsCenter on Thursday, Fowler reported that the two sides are expected to intensify contract talks soon.
“The Patriots and Gilmore know they can intensify contract talks sometime in the next few weeks,” he said. “Things are slow right now, but I expect those sides to ramp up negotiations sometime before training camp.”
Gilmore, a former first-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills, originally joined the Patriots via a five-year, $65 million free agency contract in 2017. Through a series of subsequent restructures, however, he is heading into the 2021 season with a maximum cash intake of only $7.9 million — as noted above the 25th highest such number among all of the league’s cornerbacks.
Gilmore is therefore now looking for an adjustment, likely through an extension. While that appears to be the best outcome for both parties, there are other scenarios as well.
One of them is the Patriots parting ways with the 30-year-old via trade. That said, Gilmore is apparently confident that such a move will not materialize.
“I’m told that Gilmore has largely not expected to be traded throughout this process because he knows the Patriots have made moves with Gilmore in mind,” Fowler said on Thursday. “They haven’t gotten a cornerback to replace him, and as one source told me, ‘Do the Patriots really want to go into Week 4 against Tom Brady without their top cornerback?’”
Ever since his arrival, Gilmore has filled the top cornerback role for the Patriots. Appearing in a combined 63 regular season and playoff games, he developed into one of the best defenders in football: Gilmore played a crucial role in New England’s victory in Super Bowl LIII — a game that saw him register a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter — and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year after the 2019 season.
The 2020 season, however, was a challenging one for the veteran. Not only did he have to spend time on the Coronavirus reserve list in October, he also missed three games due to an in-season knee injury and eventually had to end the year on injured reserve after suffering a partially torn quad in December.
Gilmore is expected to be physically ready for training camp, but his contractual outlook remains uncertain for the time being. On the one hand, he is still among the elite cornerbacks in the game; on the other hand, the Patriots have been willing to part ways with star players before.
New England will open its training camp on Wednesday, July 29, and Gilmore is subject to team fines in case he does not report on time.