Very few people expect cornerback Stephon Gilmore to play the 2021 season for the Patriots and just make the $7.3 million he’s scheduled to receive in the last year of his five-year, $65 million contract.
The Pats’ plans for the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, though, are unclear.
They could sign Gilmore to an extension that would pay him more in cash and reduce his hit against the salary cap, which is scheduled to be a little more than $16 million. Or they can trade him.
Without demanding an extension or asking for a trade, Gilmore basically put the ball firmly in the Pats’ court Monday in comments he made to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
“It’s out of my control,” Gilmore said. “I’m just happy to be a Patriot right now, and see how it goes.”
Reading between the lines, “right now” sounds like he's saying that it’s just April and he knows there’s still plenty of time for the Pats to get their house in order. They’re probably waiting to see how things unfold with their other cornerback, J.C. Jackson, on whom they put a second-round tender as a restricted free agent. Teams have until April 23 to sign Jackson to an offer sheet. If the Pats don’t match it, they get a second-round pick.
“You’ve got to leave it in their hands,” Gilmore said. “Of course, I know what type of player I am, what type of person I am. I let everything lay on its own.”
The type of player he is, by all accounts, is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Even though he wasn't quite as spectacular in 2020 as he was in 2019 when he became the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Gilmore still ranked seventh in opposing passer rating when targeted among cornerbacks who started at least 10 games.
Last week in a radio interview on WEEI, former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum said that Gilmore is probably worth a second-round pick in a trade. But the Pats' first order of business before making a trade likely would be finding a way to restructure his contract because as it stands now trading him would create $8.5 million of dead cap space versus a cap savings of $7.7 million, according to overthecap.com.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked about Gilmore's status when he spoke to reporters on the last day of March.
"Look, we’re lucky to have Stephon Gilmore," Kraft said. "He’s a tremendous player for us, a great person. I personally had the opportunity to go to the Holy Land with he and his bride and he’s just so gifted and he’s under contract with us. We’ll see what happens."