Sports Q

Sports Q: Should the Patriots rework Stephon Gilmore’s contract?

Or will Bill Belichick move on from Gilmore a year or two before someone else would?

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wears a mask on the field as he talks with New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) before the Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. AP

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Should the Patriots rework Stephon Gilmore’s contract?

This is one of those contract disputes where it’s easy to see both sides. Actually, dispute is probably too strong of a word there, even if Gilmore did miss the first day of mandatory minicamp Monday. It’s not so much a dispute as it is a play for leverage that should surprise no one.

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Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the best free-agent signing in Patriots history, is entering the final year of his contract due to make $7.9 million. That is well below the going rate for an elite cornerback, and Gilmore, 30, has absolutely been elite in his four seasons with the Patriots, making three Pro Bowls and earning two All-Pro selections. The Patriots have had some superb corners through the years – Mike Haynes, Raymond Clayborn, Ty Law, even Darrelle Revis for a year – but no one has ever been better for a single season than Gilmore in ’19, when he led the AFC in interceptions (6) and passes defensed (20), and an opposing passer rating of 48.0.

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But it also must be noted that he hasn’t been underpaid, banking more than $56 million as a Patriot so far. He was still a quality cornerback last year, but not nearly as impenetrable as he was in ’19. And he did miss the last five games last season with a partially torn quad. It’s fully understandable if the Patriots want to see him in action and how the quad has recovered before giving him a new deal. Staying away from minicamp helps him get his point across, but actually being there and proving he’s healthy would probably serve him better in the presumed quest for a new deal.

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I hope the Patriots sign him to, say, a new three-year deal. It would seem counterproductive to have spent the offseason – and more than $150 million in guarantees – to reinforce the roster, only to move on from the best defensive player in the league just two years ago. They’re trying to contend now, and Gilmore presumably helps that cause. But Bill Belichick has never been averse from moving on from a player a year too early or when the player’s contract demands exceeded the team’s valuation of him. I mean, he even did it with that quarterback down there in Tampa Bay.

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I’m not going to be surprised by any outcome with Gilmore. But I do hope they keep him around on a new deal. He’s a holdover as a very good player on a reloaded roster. And cornerbacks of his capabilities are not easy to find.

But what does everyone else think? Should the Patriots sign Stephon Gilmore to a new contract? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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