Let’s see, where do we slot the departure of Stephon Gilmore on the list of Belichickian Stunners?
I say the first cut is the deepest so Lawyer Milloy remains No. 1. Then Logan Mankins in 2014. Have to go with Richard Seymour, dealt right before the 2009 season next. Then Deion Branch in 2006, in a "cut off your nose to spite your face" move. Randy Moss in 2010. Jamie Collins in 2016. And then, bringing up the rear, Gilmore.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen this movie so many times that I’m not surprised anymore. My phone started making the bamboo bong noise at 7:58 a.m. When I picked it up and saw the texts reading, "Pats released Gilmore" staring back at me my reaction wasn’t a gasp but a sigh.
Because -- as with all those other moves -- when you look at the dynamics around the player, the likelihood of him being out the door is staring you right in the face. In Gilmore’s case, the factors are stacked up pretty high.
He’s carrying out a shadow holdout. He’s 31. He never got on the field in training camp to show how well his surgically-repaired quad has healed. He’s got a cap hit in excess of $16M. He’s got a $7M salary. The Patriots are just $54K under the cap and want to sign Jamie Collins, apparently. In the 11 games he played last season, he wasn’t close to the corner he was in 2019 when he was the DPOY. And as great as he was in 2019, he closed that regular season getting devoured by Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker in a must-win game.
The Patriots, through the first four weeks of the year, have learned that they are not up Poop’s Creek without a paddle in the secondary sans Steph.
Meanwhile, Gilmore had angled his situation as favorably as possible. Nobody wants quad surgery. But the injury allowed Gilmore to land on the PUP list. And when it was time to come off, he could have slow-played it for three more weeks. He could have come back after that time expired, made about $1M per game, gotten credit for the season and become a free agent.
I get the indignation I’m seeing and hearing over the lack of a meaningful return the Patriots are getting. Trading Gilmore to Carolina for a future sixth-rounder is better than getting nothing.
If the Patriots dealt him at the deadline last year, they potentially would have gotten something better. They did not. So as it stands, Gilmore will have played five games post-2020 trade deadline all at a sub-Steph level and for a generous rate of pay since the team gave him a raise last year.
We can't be context-free on the analysis.
Gilmore was holding out. The Patriots are flush to the cap and the player with the fattest cap number isn’t playing for them. Meanwhile, teams weren't lining up to give valuable trade compensation because they understand Gilmore is going to cost $1M per game. And he’s been hurt. And he’s 31. And he wants a new contract from the new team and if he doesn’t get it, he’ll be on to the next team.
So TOTAL AND COMPLETE MISMANAGEMENT OF THE ASSET is not accurate, in my opinion. When the Patriots opted last October to keep Gilmore, they couldn’t foresee a quad injury that muddied the waters. That injury, weirdly, created leverage for Gilmore.
So the end isn’t ideal. But the Patriots did get a Super Bowl-sealing pick from Gilmore and a DPOY season (such as it was).
I'm feeling this is more "c'est la vie" than an outrage. Maybe you feel the same now.
Circling back to the top of this column, though, if you look at all those moves and a few more -- Mike Vrabel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Chandler Jones, Cam Newton among them -- the only occasions the Patriots executed straight releases were Milloy and Newton.
In the case of those two, the team had Rodney Harrison and Mac Jones as successors. Who succeeds Gilmore? Obviously, J.C. Jackson. So Jackson, it should be expected, gets retained when he becomes a free agent after the season. If not and there's no other top-tier corner imported? That would be mismanagement of a position. Or miscalculation. Or both.
So, as always, stay very tuned.