Stephon Gilmore details contract dispute: 3 best-case scenarios for Patriots cornerback

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is at that classic crossroads in Foxborough, where head coach Bill Belichick starts to get really reluctant about paying veteran players too much.

Usually, it works out for Belichick, but he got burned by Tom Brady last year, and may want to consider keeping Gilmore happy. The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year spoke about his contract dispute with the Patriots to NFL reporter Josina Anderson, who shared his comments on Twitter:

Bearing in mind the fact that Gilmore is looking for a sizable, multi-year contract extension, and that his spat with New England has been going on all offseason, let’s take an updated look at the best-case scenarios for the 30-year-old veteran.

Best-case scenarios for Stephon Gilmore’s contract dispute

3. Re-signing with New England Patriots on backloaded extension

The only practical way for Gilmore to remain in a Patriots jersey and to “have his cake and eat it too” is to sign a contract extension that meets his salary demands. However, that’ll require the deal to be backloaded.

Belichick went on an absolute spending spree in free agency this offseason, and had to structure all those new contracts and kick the can into 2022 to clear enough salary cap space. Because of that, New England is projected to have only $26.2 million in cap room next year.

If a backloaded deal were to be agreed upon, Belichick would probably create multiple outs in the contract after each season. That means Gilmore could be signing for a lot of money, only to see himself released before the deal reaches its end.

That’s why this outcome is No. 3 on the list. Gilmore would have to do a cost-benefit analysis of playing for a perennial contender while also realizing Belichick is likely to show him the door sooner than expected no matter how well he plays.

2. Have a great 2021 season in New England, score in free agency

Stephon Gilmore details contract dispute: 3 best-case scenarios for Patriots cornerback
Dec 15, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) breaks up a pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Gilmore and Belichick can bury the hatchet for at least one more year, right? After all, Gilmore does have the highest cap hit on the team for 2021 at over $16 million, so it’s not like he’s getting a raw deal.

Again, given Belichick’s long-established precedent, it’s no surprise he wants Gilmore to essentially stay on an expensive, one-year prove-it deal. Injuries played a part, as he missed five games in 2020, but Gilmore is coming off a down season. He’ll turn 31 in September.

This isn’t the worst outcome for Gilmore. He’s getting handsomely paid, more so than any of his teammates, in the near term. If he does bounce back with a big year in 2021, he’ll command a ton of money on the open market, and won’t have to necessarily stay in New England.

It’d be pretty sweet from Gilmore’s perspective to help the Pats bounce back from last year and return to his elite level of play. Then, he could sign wherever he wants in the offseason and be the next ex-Pat, after Brady, to tell The Hoodie, “I told you so.”

1. Stephon Gilmore gets traded to another playoff-caliber team

Willingly giving up a quality player to a trade suitor who could be in the running for the Lombardi Trophy won’t appeal to most New England fans. Then again, if the price is right, it’s doubtful Belichick would hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade.

For all the winning the Patriots do, they sure don’t seem to foster the most fun-friendly workplace. Just look at how gleeful Brady and Rob Gronkowski were in Tampa Bay last season en route to another Super Bowl win.

What Belichick and New England do obviously works. However, maybe the colder, calculated, business side of things is a little alienating to players like Gilmore, who’s given many years of quality service to the organization.

Based on how Gilmore feels, it seems like a change of scenery would benefit him most. A legitimate Super Bowl contender could be inclined to get bold, and risk a higher draft pick on Gilmore returning somewhere close to his 2019 form.

Recall how Richard Sherman wasn’t terribly impressive when he first moved from the Seattle Seahawks to the San Francisco 49ers. During his second season in the Bay Area, though, he returned to top-flight status, earning a second-team All-Pro selection and ranking as Pro Football Focus’ top-graded corner of 2019.

Top Stephon Gilmore trade suitors

Top Stephon Gilmore trade suitors
Oct 18, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) leaves the field after warming up before a game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • 1. Los Angeles Chargers: Under new defensive-minded coach Brandon Staley, the Bolts could stand to add a veteran of Gilmore’s caliber to the cornerback position. A trio of Gilmore, Chris Harris Jr. and rookie Asante Samuel Jr. sounds pretty darn good on paper.
  • 2. Pittsburgh Steelers: One of the NFL’s premier defensive fronts lacks a solid secondary to back it up. That’s where Gilmore could really help out the Steelers. They’ll have the second-most cap space in the NFL entering next offseason as things stand right now.
  • 3. Las Vegas Raiders: The AFC West is just stacked, and going against Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes twice each, no defense needs more help than the Raiders. You never know what a game-changing cornerback like Gilmore could do for a maligned unit, and Las Vegas will have the funds to give him a bag in 2022.
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