The Patriots and Stephon Gilmore recently agreed to a sizable pay raise for 2020, but the club considered trading the star cornerback before this year’s draft and during training camp, as Albert Breer of SI.com reports (via Twitter). It’s unclear who the interested teams were and what the compensation might have been, but trading Gilmore obviously would have had a significant detrimental impact on New England’s 2020 prospects.
Breer suggests that the trade discussions may have been financially motivated, as he says the Patriots’ high number of opt-outs and the corresponding salary cap room those opt-outs created “changed the equation.” New England is carrying a significant amount of dead money on its books this season, but the club still has the second-most cap room in the league right now, at roughly $31.5MM. The opt-outs certainly help that number, but the opt-outs were finalized in early August. So if trade discussions were indeed happening during training camp, perhaps there were other factors at play (like the desire to trade Gilmore while his value is at its peak).
In any event, the extra cap space did make it a little easier for the team to give Gilmore the above-referenced pay bump and bring his 2020 salary more in line with the top of the CB market. He still has two years left on the five-year contract he signed prior to the 2017 season, and the two sides could explore extension talks following the 2020 campaign.
New England certainly would have had plenty of suitors for Gilmore, who will turn 30 this week and who pulled down Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019. The Pats still have enough juice to be competitive this season, but some believe that the team could be in for a difficult rebuild in the post-Tom Brady era, so extra draft capital would have helped that cause.
On the other hand, a rejuvenated Cam Newton could help New England return to the playoffs, and with Bill Belichick at the helm, a rebuild for the Pats might look different than it would for other teams.
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