Sports

What’s next after New England’s Stephon Gilmore goes public about contract?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore has taken his feelings about his contract status public. How that affects his future with the team, one of the hot-button questions entering the 2021 training camp, remains an open-ended question.

Public pressure usually doesn’t impel coach Bill Belichick to return to the negotiating table. In fact, he might be more inclined to hold firm to make a point that his preferred way to handle business is behind closed doors.

Gilmore, who didn’t attend June’s mandatory minicamp, referenced on Tuesday a since-deleted CBS Sports HQ tweet of the top-10-paid defensive backs in the NFL (based on average annual salary). Gilmore’s average annual salary of $13 million didn’t qualify him for the list, and he shared his viewpoint.

“Oh OK,” Gilmore tweeted.

It was the most public declaration Gilmore has made about his contract, and could be viewed as a sign he is taking a more aggressive public approach in hopes of sparking Belichick to give him a raise.

Here are the key facts:

Contract specifics: In 2017, Gilmore signed a five-year, $65 million deal that included $40 million fully guaranteed for injury and $31 million guaranteed at the time of signing.

The average of $13 million per season was near the top of the market, but it was more the high total of guarantees that made the deal one of the strongest, according to one analyst. Gilmore enters the fifth year of that deal in 2021 and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million. The low $7 million figure is a result of the Patriots advancing him $4.5 million in 2020.

CB market: Since Gilmore signed his contract as an unrestricted free agent, the cornerback market has spiked considerably, with the Los Angeles RamsJalen Ramsey averaging a league-high $20 million per year, and the Baltimore RavensMarlon Humphrey sitting at $19.5 million. Gilmore’s $13 million average per year ranks him tied for 12th with Adoree’ Jackson of the New York Giants. This is often the balance players strike when they sign front-loaded five-year contracts — if they perform well (like Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year), they could view themselves as underpaid in the final years. The alternative, of course, is that if they don’t perform well, they could simply be cut.

Injury status: Complicating Gilmore’s situation is his return from a torn quad that ended his season in Week 15 last year. Gilmore also turns 31 in September.

What’s next? Players who don’t report for training camp are subject to fines of $50,000 per day, a high total that was part of the 2020 collective bargaining agreement because owners wanted to discourage holdouts.

Would Gilmore be willing to take such a financial hit to prove his point? Does Belichick want to risk having a potential distraction after an offseason of positive momentum?

The sides have about a month to work toward a compromise, which could be anything from an extension, to a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski-type contract sweetener in which Gilmore can earn more based on incentives.



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