New England Patriots: As AFC loads up, it’s time to find help at cornerback

Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

As the news broke that former Kansas City Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill was headed to the Miami Dolphins, all of Patriots Nation should have had the same reaction: “Uh oh”. Because the New England Patriots, as currently constituted, have a serious hole in their secondary at cornerback.

Forget needing a minor tweak. The Pats badly need a major piece, and they need it immediately, if not sooner.

New England Patriots set to face wide receiver gauntlet

Let’s just take a quick look at the wide receivers that the Patriots are slated to face this season. Be warned, it’s a downright terrifying list.

Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs (twice) and now Tyreek Hill twice a year, just to name a few.

Those are some of the best receivers in the league, a true who’s-who of incredible talent, and the Patriots will be forced to defend them week after week. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

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The New England Patriots need cornerback help

It’s nearly impossible to be a competitive team without a true #1 cornerback, even when facing a normal group of wideouts. After losing J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Pats are in exactly that situation, and just so happen to be facing that absurd group listed above.

That’s a recipe for disaster, and it seems like even Bill Belichick agrees. He took one look at that list, saw Jalen Mills as his top CB, and knew he needed help. So much so that he mended a bridge that seemed beyond burned by bringing back Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler.

As a side note, this is probably as close as Belichick will ever come to admitting fault for benching Butler against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, but that’s another story for another day. In the present, it’s an admission that the New England Patriots do not have enough on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s looking anywhere he can to find talented defenders.

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Potential cornerback help for the New England Patriots

With free agency well underway, the time is now for the Pats to add to their defensive backfield. Luckily, there is still a big fish on the market, one that all of New England is already familiar with: Stephon Gilmore.

Would Belichick be able to convince Gilmore to come back after last year’s disagreement over a new contract? Maybe. After patching things up with Butler, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. This year, nothing seems off the table.

And make no mistake about it, Gilmore would absolutely help this team. While many Patriots fans will remember an injured Gilmore spending his last weeks in New England on the PUP list, he was once again one of the best CB’s in the league once he took the field for the Carolina Panthers. Again, the 31-year-old corner may not even be open to coming back, but his old teammates are certainly rooting for a reunion.

Of course, there is also the upcoming NFL Draft, which offers the opportunity to add a young corner to the roster. While top prospects such as Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr will surely be gone by the time New England is on the clock, the Patriots should have a chance to pick up one of the second group of corners like Trent McDuffie, Andrew Booth Jr, Roger McCreary, or maybe even someone like Alontae Taylor.

The New England Patriots need to make a move soon

The bottom line is that the New England Patriots need cornerback help, no matter where it comes from, and Bill Belichick knows it. If he didn’t, there’s no way he would have reached out to Malcolm Butler, who didn’t even play last season, and who I’m surprised didn’t have Belichick blocked in his phone after their contentious breakup.

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While many fans, myself included, would prefer to see the team take a wide receiver in the draft, the time has come to admit that the team has bigger, more pressing needs. And right now, the team has no bigger need than a true #1 cornerback to match up with the truly insane group of wideouts they will face this year.