The Patriots are making big moves this week. New England will sign cornerback Stephon Gilmore, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The deal is expected to come in at more than $14MM/year, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, but the length of the pact is not yet clear.
This deal spells the end of free agent Logan Ryan‘s time with the team, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. In theory, Gilmore and Ryan could have formed one of league’s premier CB duos, but that would have been extremely costly for the Pats. I have Ryan ranked No. 6 on my Top 50 Free Agents list, which ranks players in terms of projected earning power. Gilmore was not far behind at No. 10.
Malcolm Butler, on the other hand, should still be returning to New England. This week, the Pats applied the first-round tender to the cornerback. In theory, another club could sign him to an offer sheet and forfeit a first-round choice if the Pats choose not to match. We’re not so sure Butler will be worth all of that for interested clubs.
The Bears made a strong push for Gilmore this week and the Bills were also working to re-sign him. Buffalo could have retained Gilmore with the franchise tag, but the team felt that the one-year tender for corners was too pricey. They allowed Gilmore to test the open market and they may or may not regret that decision today.
Gilmore did not play up to his ability in 2016 and some have speculated that he was playing it safe in his contract year. Others have wondered if Gilmore simply slipped as the Bills’ entire defense slumped.
The former first-rounder has started 66 games since entering the league in 2012. This year, he had a career-high five interceptions, but Pro Football Focus ranked him only 61st among 112 qualifying corners. Despite the so-so year, Gilmore still ranked as our third-best available free agent cornerback.