As good as the Patriots’ offseason looks on paper, they still have one major problem to address before training camp begins next week: getting arguably their best defensive player back on the field.
That man, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, hasn’t donned a Patriots uniform since last season while recovering from a quad injury and angling for a new contract with the team.
According to Sports Illustrated insider Albert Breer, the dispute between the two sides remains “uncertain” with real football on the horizon.
“My understanding is there’s been no recent progress toward either extending Gilmore, or giving him a raise for 2021,” Breer said in his Morning Morning Quarterback column. “But that could change with people coming back off vacation in the coming days.”
Gilmore is currently set to make roughly $7 million in base salary in 2021 — a number that puts him far below the highest earners at his position this season. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year proceeded to skip both voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp without a new contract, even though he likely wouldn’t have participated much at either one due to the quad injury.
He recently said he just wants to be paid “what I’m worth” but does not expect to be traded from the team.
“The Patriots knew last September when they moved $5 million in his contract up a year that they’d be here—Gilmore was never going play the final year of his deal at $7 million—so this is no surprise to anyone,” Breer wrote.
The veteran NFL writer suggests the Patriots could be discussing a “Darius Slay–style extension” with Gilmore — Slay signed a three-year, $50.05 million extension with ($30.05 million guaranteed) after being traded to Philadelphia from Detroit. New England could also simply add incentives to his deal as they did with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski near the end of their Patriots careers, driving up the overall value of the deal if he hits them.
There’s urgency for both sides to get a deal done, Breer noted.
For one thing, a revamped defense sans Gilmore “would only undermine all the work Bill Belichick did to overhaul the roster in March and April,” he wrote. A healthy Gilmore is still seen as one of the best players at this position and is among the few true shutdown corners in football.
That said, Gilmore can’t afford to hold out forever. Literally.
The cornerback would incur $50,000 daily fines for each day he doesn’t report to training camp. For perspective, he’d accrue more fines in two days of a training camp holdout than he did in three days of missing mandatory minicamp, which docked him about $93 thousand.
“Bottom line, the best thing for everyone is to address it soon,” Breer said. “I think these two sides will.”
Training camp practices begin next Wednesday, July 28.
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