Patriots

A look at possible solutions to the Patriots’s Stephon Gilmore problem as training camp looms

Gilmore's entering the final year of his deal and wants to be paid "what I'm worth."

Stephon Gilmore could hold out of training camp to help negotiate a new deal. AP

With the Patriots opening training camp 10 days from Sunday, the team has one big question to resolve: What will they do about Stephon Gilmore’s contract situation?

The star cornerback is on the final year of his five-year contract with a base salary set at $7 million for the 2021 season. Gilmore turned the heat up on the Patriots skipping mandatory minicamp in June and sharing his thoughts on the top 10 paid defensive backs in the league (which he isn’t on) before publicly commenting on the situation earlier in July.

“I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out,” Gilmore told NFL insider Josina Anderson. “Every player should be paid what they’re worth. That’s just how it is.”

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“Hopefully we can find some common ground and get it situated,” Gilmore added. “I just know what I bring to the table and my style of play. Right now I’m just trying to focus on myself and make sure I’m good mentally and physically.”

Even though the possibility of losing the soon-to-be 31-year-old corner for nothing in free agency looms, longtime Patriots beat reporter Karen Guregian believes the team and Gilmore will come “to some resolution” to keep him in New England for at least 2021.

“Gilmore’s presence weighs heavily toward validating all the other money Bill Belichick spent in free agency to help the Patriots reverse course from last year’s 7-9 debacle,” Guregian wrote in her Sunday column for the Boston Herald. “It’s tough to fathom Belichick leaving himself short at the most important position on defense, especially during such a pivotal season for the team. The level of success of his defense has typically depended on having a top-notch corner capable of eliminating an opponent’s best receiving weapon.”

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While Guregian highlights what Gilmore, who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, could use for leverage, she noted that the Patriots have a couple of things in their favor. Gilmore can be fined “upward of $50,000” for each day he misses of training camp and he still has to prove his worth as one of the game’s top corners, Guregian notes.

If the Patriots and Gilmore come to an agreement on a new deal, ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggests Gilmore could just get a pay increase for this upcoming season but not an extension.

“Part of what the current-day Patriots would be wrestling with regarding a possible extension for Gilmore — in addition to his age (31) and the fact he’s coming off a torn quad — is their position with the 2022 salary cap,” Reiss wrote. “They currently have $201.7 million in total commitments, according to Patriots cap wizard Miguel Benzan, and the ceiling for next year’s cap is $208 million.”

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If the Patriots go in that direction, Reiss thinks that Gilmore could get a similar increase to what Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski got in 2018: incentives to make them among the highest-paid at their respective positions. The $4.5 million increase Gilmore received last season wasn’t incentive-based and was money moved from the 2021 season to the 2020 season.

Reiss also speculates that the Patriots could give Gilmore a similar deal to Richard Seymour’s extension in 2006, but notes, “That situation was more of an outlier in the coach Bill Belichick era.”

Boston Globe Patriots beat reporter Ben Volin wouldn’t be surprised if Gilmore held out of the first few days of training camp, writing “losing $200,000 in fines could be worth it if it leads to several more million.”

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Volin also mentions that Gilmore could “hold in” by showing up to training camp to not get fined but also not participate in workouts after tearing his quadriceps last year.

“I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt since the surgery. I’ve been running a lot, building full speed,” Gilmore told Anderson earlier in July of his injury.

“We’ll see; if I need to be (100 percent),” Gilmore added. “But I also don’t want to push it.”

Patriots training camp opens on July 28 and the team will play their first preseason game on Aug. 12 against the Washington Football Team.

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