The New England Patriots lost a ton of talent on defense this offseason, but at least they still have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
But that nearly wasn't the case, either.
The Patriots more than once explored trading cornerback Stephon Gilmore this offseason, NFL reporter Albert Breer reported Sunday on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Pregame Live.
"I'm told that on least two separate occasions, the Patriots floated his name in trade talks, both before the (NFL) Draft and during training camp," Breer said Sunday.
Why would New England consider parting ways with arguably the best cornerback in football, especially after watching core defensive players Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts -- in addition to quarterback Tom Brady -- leave in free agency?
The answer is simple: financial flexibility. The Patriots had essentially zero cap space earlier this offseason and Gilmore was the team's second-highest paid player behind Joe Thuney prior to signing an extension this week.
"There was a point where they had less than $1 million underneath the salary cap," Breer added. "Stephon Gilmore was one of the few people they could go to who could make a significant difference there, and I can tell you this: He wasn't going to renegotiate his contract.
Gilmore's value also has never been higher, so if the Pats wanted to go full rebuild following Brady's departure, they could have gotten a massive haul for the two-time first-team All-Pro.
Instead, Bill Belichick and Co. signed Cam Newton to a bargain deal in free agency and came into some extra cap space after eight players opted out of the 2020 season.
That meant they could give Gilmore a raise instead of shipping him out of town and help maintain the Patriots secondary's status as one of the NFL's best position groups.