One of the most drawn out sagas in the NFL came to a conclusion today when the New England Patriots traded Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth round pick. It was a relatively anti-climatic ending considering what it took to get to this point, and the end result should leave Patriots fans furious.
Gilmore had been known to be unhappy at his deal heading into last season, so the Patriots compromised and gave him a $5 million advance on his salary so he wouldn’t hold out. But all that did was delay the issue to this season, and somehow New England’s front office wasn’t prepared for a potential holdout from Gilmore.
Gilmore was eventually placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, although it’s rumored that he has been fully healthy for some time now. This gave New England a bit of extra time to see if a new deal could be reached with Gilmore, but it ultimately proved to be a futile effort. Now all New England has in return for Gilmore is a sixth round pick that won’t become important until at least a year and a half later.
How did the New England Patriots mess this up so badly?
The fact that the Patriots just dumped Gilmore off for next to nothing less than two seasons after his 2019 Defensive Player of the Year campaign is mind-boggling. Gilmore wasn’t as effective last season, but there’s no question he’s still a top 10 cornerback when healthy.
The Patriots lack of initiative when it came to dealing with Gilmore’s situation is absurd, and it cost them here. This should have been taken care of months ago, maybe even dating back to last offseason. Either hand him a new deal or ship him off to another team. Announcing you are intending to release him before trading him for minimal compensation isn’t anywhere on that list.
Yet that’s the move the Pats front office pulled today. It’s better than outright releasing him for nothing, but a 2023 sixth round pick is basically the equivalent of a $1 scratch ticket in the NFL. You might win every once in awhile, but the trade off from All-Pro cornerback to maybe a rotation level NFL player doesn’t seem like a beneficial transaction.
If the New England Patriots were to trade Gilmore, they should have done it this offseason when they probably could have built a package around him to land a star wide receiver such as Davante Adams or Michael Gallup. Even a bundle of picks would have been better than this. Waiting on Gilmore to budge didn’t really work, and there wasn’t exactly any inkling from him that he was going to change his course.
It’s not as if the Patriots desperately needed Gilmore either. They have a solid core at cornerback that consists of J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills, and Jonathan Jones. Having Gilmore would obviously help, but this position group has managed to hold their own for the most part this season, and had easily their best game of the season this past weekend against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The one thing New England gains aside from a low level draft pick is some much needed salary cap space. New England had next to nothing in the salary cap department, with the total coming in at around $54,000. Moving Gilmore frees up $5.8 million in cap space, some of which is being used to bring back linebacker Jamie Collins.
That doesn’t change the fact that this could have been handled over the summer. The Patriots have been handcuffed to this limited cap space for the first four weeks of the season, and you have to wonder whether or not they would have made a couple of personnel moves through the first four weeks had they actually had money to do so.
All in all, this was a horribly mishandled situation by the New England Patriots. They knew the situation at hand with Gilmore needed to get resolved at some point, and rather than working on getting it done, they just sat there and stared at it until they couldn’t any longer.
Now the Patriots are saying goodbye to one of the top cornerbacks in the game and receiving next to nothing in return. You can’t allow a talent like Gilmore to walk out door for this little, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this move come back and hurt the Patriots in the near future.