Stephon Gilmore is not happy with his contract, and he let the New England Patriots know last week. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year decided to skip mandatory minicamp in an apparent form of protest over the lack of a long-term perspective.
But while Gilmore is looking for a new deal, his old one is still among the very best in the league — at least from the team’s perspective. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger came to this conclusion in a recent analysis of the best deals in football. The focus of this exercise was to look at “the value they’ve provided since signing the contract, and the value at signing compared to our expectation based on past performance.”
Gilmore’s deal with the Patriots checks in at No. 23:
23. CB STEPHON GILMORE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: FIVE YEARS, $65 MILLION ($0 IN REMAINING GUARANTEES)
The Buffalo Bills front office had to have felt a pit in their stomach after letting Stephon Gilmore — their top-10 draft pick in 2012 — walk in free agency in 2017 only to see him sign a big-time deal with the division foe New England Patriots. In their defense, even we at PFF didn’t see Gilmore earning this contract in free agency, and the Patriots proved their rare foray into the top of the market in free agency was because they knew something others didn’t.
Gilmore has gone on to be arguably the best cornerback in the NFL since signing the dotted line, ranking third in WAR at cornerback since 2017 even while missing five games in 2020. The good news for Buffalo: They drafted cornerback Tre’Davious White that same offseason in 2017, and White ranks exactly one spot behind Gilmore in wins above replacement since 2017.
The Patriots signing Gilmore to five-year, $65 million contract in 2017 was a coup. He has been a cornerstone of their defense ever since his arrival, and has helped the team win a Super Bowl along the way (one during which he made a pivotal interception).
Of course, the original structure of that deal is no longer in place. New England has restructured the deal multiple times over the last few years to gain some short- or long-term salary cap flexibility. Heading into 2021, he therefore carries a cap hit of $16.3 million — highest on the team and among all cornerbacks in football.
Signing Gilmore to an extension might help bring that number down, and would also guarantee that New England keeps its number one cover corner under contract for the foreseeable future. Of course, that is just one of the potential outcomes of the current dispute.