Stephon Gilmore has a compelling case that his $7M salary for this season is a cut below what elite corners make.
We would have to ignore the fact that, in his four seasons with the Patriots, he’s made $56.625M and averaged a healthy $14.165 million so far in order to work up any indignation on his behalf, but still; in a vacuum, his salary is a fraction of what corners of similar ability will make this year.
But even if Gilmore has a case, the Patriots have the money and Gilmore is going to withhold services until he gets a bump, he really isn’t dealing from a position of strength.
He’ll be 31 in September and is coming off surgery on a partially torn quadriceps muscle that sidelined him in the final weeks of the 2020 season.
If the Patriots are even willing to give him a raise as he enters the final year of his deal, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year is going to need to demonstrate he’s fully good to go. And it’s hard to do that when you’re not in Foxboro.
What’s Gilmore’s leverage? That he’s one of the five best cornerbacks in football, the improved Patriots roster means the team has a chance to compete with the best in the AFC again and without an elite corner, that chore gets way harder.
What’s the Patriots leverage? As Belichick once said to me when I asked about a disgruntled player who was threatening to hold out, “What’s he gonna do, open a garage?” It’s not like Gilmore is going to trade himself to Kansas City. Play here and get paid. Or don’t.
This whole scenario was easy to envision when Gilmore ended the 2018 season with a key pick in the Super Bowl and the DPOY in 2019. At that point, he was past the halfway point in his deal and lesser players were signing contracts worth close to $20M APY. We started writing about it last July. It was noted when the team gave him a salary bump during training camp last year. We tracked it all up to and through the trade deadline.
Sources around Gilmore have consistently told me he doesn’t want to leave New England. He was mystified and taken aback by talk of him being traded last fall.
Meanwhile, given Belichick’s readiness with a weather excuse on Monday morning for any minicamp absences, it seems he’s not looking to turn up the heat on the situation either. A dozen years ago? We might have heard something like, “It’s minicamp. Mandatory. Been on the schedule for months. Don’t know why anyone would be surprised by it. We’ll work with the guys who are here.”
Truth be told -- and contrary to the breathlessness with which we will cover it -- a minicamp holdout in June isn’t a crisis. An absence at the start of training camp wouldn’t be either. If it gets to mid-August? Well, then it’s getting real inconvenient. Because when a player doesn’t finish a season because of an injury to one of his money-makers, he needs to get those things back in game shape by playing. And his bosses need to see they’re in game shape. So, again, not a lot of leverage for Gilmore to get a full-blown three-year extension. If he’s even lobbying for that.
In a way, this feels like old times. In the first of Bill Belichick’s two decades in charge of the Patriots, contract squabbles were omnipresent.
I’m working on an updated list of the top 50 Patriots under Belichick and 15 of the top 30 guys had pretty serious -- and some very public -- issues with what they were paid. Most of them were homegrown guys who were approaching second contracts that wanted to be paid among the top players in the league. The Patriots routinely hard-lined them.
Gilmore’s situation compared to those of Deion Branch, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour or even Wes Welker or mid-2000s Brady? It’s hard to summon much indignation on his behalf. And given the lack of any statement -- cryptic tweets don’t count -- maybe he isn’t feeling as wronged as those players rightly were.
Perhaps it’s more along the lines of ...
Will he get it? Will he need to show up to get it? The Patriots will leave the light on for him.