Last year, the Patriots gave cornerback Stephon Gilmore more money by moving a large chunk of his 2021 salary to 2020. Now that it’s 2021, that money is gone — and Gilmore wants it to be replaced, and then some.
So what will the Patriots do about it? In his excellent weekly look at all things Patriotic, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com considers the team’s precedent in such matters.
Most recently, the team placated the likes of tight end Rob Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady with incentive packages. It’s much easier to do that with offensive players who rack up various forms of stats. For defensive players, the options are limited. As to cornerbacks, the most significant stat — interceptions — first requires the opposing quarterback to challenge the player by throwing a ball in his direction.
Thus, in order to go that route, the Patriots may have to get creative, using factors like playing time or higher-end stats like passer rating when targeted, for example. Even then, it may not be enough.
As Reiss notes, defensive lineman Richard Seymour drew a line in the sand in 2006 with one year left on his rookie contract, and he got a market-level deal. Receiver Deion Branch, who also wanted more in 2006, turned a nasty holdout into a trade.
Whether Gilmore holds out depends at this point on whether the Patriots can come up with some way to make him happy. Incentive packages he may or may not ever earn may not get it done. Also, with fellow cornerback J.C. Jackson also due to become a free agent in March, the Patriots should hope to emerge from the Gilmore situation with at least one of them — Jackson or Gilmore — committed well beyond 2021.
Given their depth at the position, it could make sense to trade Gilmore and extend Jackson. Trade chatter emerged as to Gilmore near the deadline last year, but a knee injury pulled the plug on the possibility. The possibility looms, if Gilmore wants significantly more than the Patriots will pay.