The Patriots kicked off mandatory minicamp this week and there were two big storylines. The first was the quarterback competition, as New England searches for the answer at the game’s most important position. The other was the conspicuous absence of All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore was not in attendance and has no plans to be unless he gets a reworked contract. He is currently in the final year of 5 year, $65 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2017. He is slated make $7.5 million this season, which would place him 25th among cornerbacks. To say he is underpaid would be an understatement.
The Patriots should work with Gilmore to significantly increase his salary for two reasons. The first is the level of player that Gilmore is. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and has consistently been one of the top three corners in the NFL since coming to New England. He is coming off an injury, but as long as he is healed he should continue to play at an elite level for the next 2-3 seasons. He turns 31 in September, so expecting 2-3 years of continued high performance is reasonable and the Patriots can compensate him as such given the estimated $15+ million of salary cap space they have.
The second reason the Patriots should give Gilmore a raise and another year or two on his deal is the importance of the position he plays. The NFL is a passing league and having a defender that can consistently shut down and opponent’s best receiver is a massive advantage. Whoever is the Patriots starting quarterback, a revamped and strong defense will be essential to the Patriots winning games. Gilmore would be at the center of that.
Every time the Patriots have won a Super Bowl under Bill Belichick they have had at least one top tier cornerback. That’s not a coincidence. The Patriots prefer to play man coverage and mix up looks to confuse opposing offenses. Having Gilmore allows them to essentially do whatever they want on the back end of their defense.
The Patriots engaged in an unprecedented spending spree this offseason and have a team with the potential to go deep into the playoffs once again. They should finish off their spending by keeping around one of their most important players.