After a disappointing 7-9 finish to their season, the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick have a lot of work to do ahead of the 2021 season. Perhaps first and foremost on New England’s off-season checklist is deciding if they should trade All-Pro cornerback, Stephon Gilmore. After earning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019, Gilmore took a small step backward in 2020. However, despite that small step and playing in just 11 games, Gilmore still earned Pro-Bowl honors.
While Gilmore will be entering the final year of his contract in 2021, he has been seeking a new contract along with a raise for the better part of a year now. The former defensive player of the year certainly has earned a pay raise as his average annual value currently ranks as the 13th highest paid cornerback in the NFL. Fellow corners such as A.J. Bouye, Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes, Patrick Peterson, and Darius Slay all rank ahead of Gilmore despite being lesser players.
The Patriots, as they did with Malcolm Butler along with Darrelle Revis, likely will not give Gilmore a second contract and Gilmore likely will not play under his current deal. This leaves both sides two options, either New England cuts Gilmore, something which makes no sense as he still brings value, or New England trades Gilmore.
Stephon Gilmore Trade Destinations
New England would save roughly ten million cap dollars in a Gilmore trade. However, the tricky part of trading Gilmore is finding a team who would be willing to give an aging corner a new contract.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have a history of being willing to pay older cornerbacks. The most recent example came in 2018 when the team signed a 30-year-old Richard Sherman following a serious Achilles injury. Sherman will be a free agent this off-season and barring a “miracle” will be looking to move on, as ESPN reported in early December. With Sherman likely out the door, the 49ers will need to bolster their secondary.
A deal centered around Gilmore for Jimmy Garoppolo makes sense for both the Patriots and 49ers. San Francisco would absorb just a 2.8 million dollar dead cap charge while freeing up just over 23 million in cap space with a Garoppolo trade. The only potential hiccup with this deal is the 49ers would need to have a quarterback replacement in order to feel comfortable with trading away their starter. However, with Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford all rumored to be available via trade this off-season, the 49ers may have aspirations of shaking their roster up.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders pass defense struggled in 2020, ranking as the seventh-worst secondary in the league giving up an average of 263.2 yards per game. After finishing 8-8, the Raiders could be looking to make a move that pushes them over the hump and into the playoffs. Trading for Gilmore certainly would help that cause. New England packaging Gilmore and a late-round pick for Hunter Renfrow and improved draft capital makes sense for both sides. The Raiders’ offense is loaded with pass-catching playmakers such as Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs, Tyrell Williams, and Bryan Edwards who would allow for Las Vegas to deal away Renfrow. With two years left on his rookie contract, Renfrow would bring an instant upgrade to New England’s receiver room and would have a real chance at becoming the next great slot receiver for the Patriots.
The Patriots and Belichick are facing a critical 2021 off-season which will set the direction of their franchise for years to come. Another year of poor drafting and mismanagement of assets could send New England down a multi-year dark path of mediocrity. However, a strong offseason could quickly right the ship and bring them back into playoff contention.
Honorable Mention: Dallas Cowboys
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