The Most Intriguing Aspect of Stephon Gilmore's Contract Dispute

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The New England Patriots wrapped up their three-day Mandatory Minicamp yesterday, and while a lot of the attention was on the beginning of the quarterback competition between Cam Newton and Mac Jones, and the arrival of Dont'a Hightower, the most noteworthy storyline to me was the absence of Stephon Gilmore.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

While Gilmore did suffer a partially torn quad towards the end of last season, and may still be recovering, all of the reports indicate that his contract is what kept him off of the field these past few days.  With the start of training camp a little over a month away, things are sure to get interesting. 

For one, we've witnessed firsthand the kind of impact that a shutdown corner can have on a defense.  In Foxboro alone, we've seen the likes of Ty Law, Darrelle Revis and Gilmore be key parts of Super Bowl winning teams. 

Gilmore is just two years removed from being named the Defensive Player of the Year, and while he may not have been that same player last year, he's still New England's best individual defensive player and one of the top corners in the game.  For a defense that is expected to be among the tops in the league this year, a guy like Gilmore could make them elite. 

So, when he has a base salary of $7 million, which is the same as the likes of Joe Haden, you can understand his gripe.

While the Patriots have a deep and talented secondary, and would be okay without him, the fact remains they are better with Gilmore on the field.  I'm sure Gilmore is looking for some sort of extension, and long-term security, but would a one year pay bump be enough incentive, knowing he could hit free agency next year?  The Patriots certainly have the cap space for it.

They could use about half of their remaining cap space on Gilmore, giving him the highest base salary among cornerbacks this year.  It would still leave the Patriots with $8 million in cap space, should they want to pursue any in-season free agents.  Even an extra $5 million would put Gilmore in the top 3, but is the prospect of becoming a free agent enticing enough for him?

He'd be a 31 year old free agent.  Would teams come running to him?  

Look at what is happening with Richard Sherman.  At 33 years old, he is certainly not the elite cornerback he once was, but is still very, very good.  He's currently unemployed.  Could that be influencing Gilmore? 

The other side of this, which is fascinating to me, is how Bill Belichick ends up handling it.  We all know Belichick's history.  Guys who want more money, don't typically get it from the Patriots.  If this were five years ago, I'd say it was nice knowing you Gilmore.

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However, there's been a noticeable change in Belichick in the past year, which makes me think twice about how this will play out.  Is he a changed man?  His effusive praise for Cam Newton last year, despite his horrid play, was surprising to say the least.  Typically, Belichick saves that type of love for opposing punters.  Very rarely for his own guys, but every week it felt like he was going out of his way to pump up Newton.

Why?  Was it strategic?  A classic chess vs. checkers move?  After Tom Brady's departure, the narrative was that nobody would want to play for Belichick.  He was too tough.  It wasn't fun.  So, did Belichick make a concerted effort to show the league that he was a nice guy, a coach you would want to play for; knowing full well that the team was planning a free agency spending spree?

Did anybody hear him mention the weather as an excuse for why some players were late on the first day of camp?  The same guy who essentially ruined Jonas Gray's career because he showed up late to a meeting.  The same guy who punished Adalius Thomas, Brandon Spikes and countless others for showing up late because of a snowstorm.  Now, a little bit of rain and the blame shifts to Mother Nature?

All of that is to say that if Belichick really has "softened up", then maybe he'll give Gilmore what he wants.  History tells me that I should prepare for life without Gilmore, but I'm not entirely convinced of that just yet.   


Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Most Intriguing Aspect of Stephon Gilmore's Contract Dispute
The Most Intriguing Aspect of Stephon Gilmore's Contract Dispute
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