It's holdout season in the NFL, as big names across the league steer clear of mandatory minicamp in search of new contracts. Stephon Gilmore is just one of those missing from action while reportedly aiming for a pay raise, but this isn't the first time the Patriots cornerback has been in the headlines for an uncertain future in New England. Speculated as a potential trade candidate early in 2020, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year has made little progress toward a new contract, per The Athletic. And with the veteran set to enter the final year of his original five-year deal, it's possible the Pats could finally look to move Gilmore this summer.
Is a trade likely? What could the Patriots even get for him? And where could Gilmore end up? We've got everything you need to know right here:
Are the Patriots likely to trade Gilmore?
At this point, no. Coach Bill Belichick doesn't expect the four-time Pro Bowler to report to minicamp, but he also appears unbothered by the corner's absence. Why? Because the rubber doesn't really meet the road until training camp in late July, when New England would be required to fine Gilmore $50,000 per daily absence, as The Athletic's Jeff Howe notes.
With just over $16 million in 2021 salary cap space, the Patriots likely have the resources to accommodate Gilmore, who's due just a $7 million base salary after taking advance payments on his current deal and is reportedly now seeking top-five CB money -- something in the ballpark of Darius Slay's three-year, $50 million ($16.7 million per year) extension with the Eagles. Even a one-year pay bump could theoretically satisfy Gilmore, per Howe, with the intention of letting the corner hit free agency in 2022.
From a football perspective, the Patriots still have plenty of reason to retain Gilmore. While he'll be 31 in September and missed five games in 2020 with a quad injury, New England stocked up on veterans this offseason with the hopes of a return to the playoffs. When healthy, Gilmore remains one of the game's steadiest No. 1 cover men. The Pats have long been willing to part with top talents too early rather than too late, but Gilmore is still a central piece of their defense, which is built to be the strength of the team.
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What could the Patriots get for Gilmore?
In the event Gilmore just can't see eye to eye with Patriots brass on a pay raise or extension, and New England decides to capitalize on his contract desires by auctioning him while it can, the floor for a trade return would probably be a pair of Day Two draft picks.
On one hand, Gilmore is 30, coming off an injury and will require a big-money extension. On the other, he's a premium starter at one of the most important positions. His situation, at least as a trade chip, isn't entirely dissimilar to that of Julio Jones, who at 32 just went from the Falcons to the Titans for essentially a second- and fourth-round pick.
Here's a look at recent veteran CBs who were traded, and what for:
- 2020: A.J. Bouye to the Broncos for a fourth
- 2020: Darius Slay to the Eagles for a third and fifth
- 2019: Jalen Ramsey to the Rams for two firsts and a fourth
- 2019: Gareon Conley to the Texans for a fourth
- 2018: Marcus Peters to the Rams for a second and fourth
- 2017: Ronald Darby to the Eagles for a third and a player
Slay is probably the most comparable asset, having been dealt at 29 after multiple Pro Bowls, though Gilmore is the superior player. Ramsey is a more comparable talent, but he was just 24 at the time of his trade and on a rookie deal. Peters, for reference, was also just 25 when he went to the Rams. Again, think multiple picks as the likeliest compensation for Gilmore: A first-rounder would be steep considering he's set to be a free agent after 2021, but something like a second and a conditional third or fourth seems plausible.
Which teams could trade for Gilmore?
We'd consider the following to be the most logical landing spots:
Cleveland Browns: They've got $20.6 million in cap space. They're ready to contend now. They've shown a willingness to buy on big names (see: Jadeveon Clowney) to shore up weak spots. And while they've invested plenty at corner, including with veteran Troy Hill and rookie Greg Newsome II, their secondary would hit another level with Gilmore as the lock-down No. 1.
San Francisco 49ers: They could really use a steadier hand at corner with Richard Sherman gone and Jason Verrett under pressure to stay healthy. They're ready to rebound and make another run after an injury-riddled 2020. They've got enough space ($17.6 million) to make the money work. And they've explored blockbuster moves (e.g. Aaron Rodgers, Julio Jones) all offseason.
Indianapolis Colts: It's tough to envision Chris Ballard giving up more picks after already trading for Carson Wentz, but now is the time to compete in Indy, where the team's been assembled for a two-to-three-year title window. Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore II have shined in blue, but Gilmore would give them not only insurance but a big upgrade on the outside.
Arizona Cardinals: Few teams are as enamored with paying older stars (i.e. J.J. Watt, A.J. Green) this offseason, and the Cards can't be overly confident that Malcolm Butler and Darqueze Dennard will produce post-Patrick Peterson at corner. Such a move might dictate they make a separate deal to rid themselves of Chandler Jones' contract demands, but they've been aggressive.
Seattle Seahawks: Their cap space ($8.3 million) is tight, but they're in win-now mode as usual, and they could use some CB help after losing Shaquill Griffin to the Jaguars. They could also save some money up front by giving Jamal Adams the extension he wants.
Dallas Cowboys: They were frugal this offseason after ponying up the dough for Dak Prescott, and absorbing Gilmore and his contract demands would require some maneuvering. But they could still use a proven name in a young, overhauled secondary as they attempt to win an improved NFC East. This has old-school Jerry Jones' name written all over it.
Las Vegas Raiders: With just $3.9 million in cap space, this would require some serious financial finagling. But the Raiders have been porous on defense for a while. Can't you just see Belichick coaxing premium picks out of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, who have to be desperate to shore up their young secondary?