Patriots

Jeff Howe calls Stephon Gilmore contract standoff Patriots’ worst offseason move

Gilmore and the Patriots will reportedly try to address the cornerback's contract frustrations before training camp.

Stephon Gilmore Patriots
Stephon Gilmore. Steven Senne/AP
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Coming off a disappointing 2020, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots made a lot of “good” noise this past offseason.

First, the team spent a record $159.6 million in the new league year to bring in free agents like Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Matthew Judon, and Nelson Agholor to fill major needs via free agency.

Then, New England put together a strong draft, highlighted by the selection of likely franchise quarterback Mac Jones in the first round.

But no team can be perfect, not even the consistently dynastic Patriots.

As The Athletic’s Patriots beat reporter Jeff Howe wrote Monday, one failed offseason resolution continues to weigh heavily on the team’s otherwise fast-paced retooling: cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s contract holdout.

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Howe decried the lingering contract dispute between Gilmore and the Patriots during The Athletic’s recap of each NFL team’s worst offseason moves in 2021.

“The Patriots didn’t showcase any urgency to try to trade him, so this could all still be resolved in a peaceful manner,” Howe said. “But if not and the Patriots are compelled to trade Gilmore, that would be a big mistake in the short term for a loaded defense and the long term with J.C. Jackson as a candidate to leave in free agency next offseason.”

Gilmore skipped voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp while seeking a raise on the $7 million he’s owed this season, which is well below the season earnings for the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league.

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The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year and the Patriots reportedly will negotiate a new contract before training camp, with Gilmore saying last week, “I just want what I’m worth.” He also has repeatedly said he’s not looking for a trade from the Patriots.

Without the lockdown corner, the team’s depth on the outside becomes precarious both in the short-term, with Jackson and perhaps newcomer Jalen Mills handling primary outside corner responsibilities, and long-term with Jackson only under contract for this season (assuming he doesn’t sign an extension himself).

If Gilmore and the Patriots’ contract issues resolve, Howe highlights the team allowing former defensive tackle Adam Butler to sign a “shockingly affordable” two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Miami Dolphins as another potential mistake.

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“The Patriots did a nice job to overhaul their defensive tackles, a necessary venture this offseason,” he said, “but allowing Butler to go — to a division rival, no less — for that contract was a surprise.”

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