Short answer-Yes. However, it is not that simple to solely want Gilmore back. He is under contract which hurts his leverage in negotiation for this season. Gilmore did not report to OTAs and he will skip the rest of mandatory minicamp. Stephon Gilmore is easily a top-5 cornerback in the NFL. Despite that, Gilmore is set to make roughly $7 million in 2021. To put that into perspective, Jalen Ramsey’s average salary per year is $21 million.
While Gilmore certainly deserves a raise, he can not expect to be making Jalen Ramsey money. He turns 31 in September, coming off a Quad injury, asking the NFL’s toughest negotiator for more money. According to Albert Breer, Gilmore is “likely” seeking a contract extension similar to what Darius Slay got in Philadelphia. That extension was for three years worth $50.5M. Why the Patriots should give Gilmore that extension:
The Patriots’ Cap Space
New England has the money. The Patriots currently hold $15,044,051 in cap space. That is more than enough to extend Stephon Gilmore; doing so would in fact free up additional cap space for New England.
There are not many positions of need on this roster. If the Patriots lose Gilmore, there will be a glaring need in the secondary. Bill Belichick should be careful to avoid a Richard Sherman situation. Seattle released Sherman when he was entering the age of 30. Sherman went on to play in the Super Bowl as a 31 year old corner who also made the Pro Bowl.
The Young AFC East QBs
The Patriots defense has been revitalized once again. Bill Belichick will not let his defense struggle two years in a row as this offseason has proven. While the secondary needed little change, the pass rush and front seven needed a new look. The AFC East now features a division full of young gun-slinging Quarterbacks. Josh Allen is coming off of a career year, the Dolphins have added serious weaponry for Tua’s Sophomore season, and New York’s Zach Wilson will have many toys at his disposal.
Bill Belichick knows the way to make these QB’s uncomfortable is to play man-to-man while sending relentless pressure from all angles. The only way to do that to the highest of quality is to add three starting linebackers who excel at getting to the Quarterback, draft depth on the edge, and have lock down defensive backs.
Keeping the Secondary Deep
J.C. Jackson is a great corner – One of the best in the league while also being one of if not the most underrated. He generates a lot of turnovers, deflections, and does not give up a lot of wide receiver production. However, Jackson is a far better wingman to Stephon Gilmore.
While Jackson struggled a bit when Gilmore was hurt, he did enough to prove he can be a #1 corner in the NFL. If the Patriots make him the #1, they will create a serious need a outside cornerback. Jonathan Jones is another reliable starting corner, but he is a slot corner. It is more likely that Jalen Mills or Myles Bryant would become the #2 in New England if Gilmore departs. If that were the case, the Patriots could have trouble playing the man-to-man defense that Bill Belichick loves.
It is in New England’s best interest to extend Gilmore and go down with this ship. If the money was tight and Gilmore clearly lost a step, then it’s time to move on. But it is very difficult to find a top of the league man-to-man corner at a cheap price in the NFL.
It is especially difficult to find a starting defensive back in June. The division will be a pass heavy one, featuring Stefon Diggs, Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, Corey Davis just to name a few. New England will need their secondary at the top of the league if they hope to take back the throne in the AFC East.