Should 2-5 Patriots Trade Stephon Gilmore Ahead Of NFL Trade Deadline?

After four straight losses, will the Patriots be deadline sellers?


Nov 2, 2020

It’s easy to forget now, but the New England Patriots began this season 2-1, with two comfortable victories and a last-second loss to a very good Seattle Seahawks squad.

That feels like a very long time ago.

Sunday’s 24-21 gut-punch of a loss to the Buffalo Bills was the Patriots’ fourth defeat in a row, dropping them to 2-5 on the year.

Bill Belichick’s club isn’t mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, but at this point, it’d likely need to win seven or eight of its final nine games — a schedule that includes matchups with the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins (in Miami), plus a Bills rematch — to even earn one of the AFC’s three wild-card spots.

The Patriots are 3 1/2 games back of the 6-2 Bills in the AFC East. They’re 2 1/2 back of the 5-3 Cleveland Browns, who currently occupy the conference’s final playoff spot. They’re 13th in the AFC standings, behind the Cincinnati Bengals. Only the 1-6 Houston Texans, 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars and 0-8 New York Jets — New England’s Week 9 opponent — are worse.

The NFL’s new playoff structure (seven teams from each conference rather than six) adds an asterisk to these metrics, but according to Pro-Football-Reference, 146 teams since 1990 have started 2-5, and just seven (4.8 percent) made the playoffs. None advanced beyond the divisional round. Average final record for those 146 teams: 6-10.

That all is a long way of saying the Patriots — titans of the AFC East and perennial Super Bowl contenders since Sunday’s leading receiver, 23-year-old Jakobi Meyers, was still in preschool — most likely will not be participating in the 2020 NFL postseason.

Which raises a pressing question: How should New England approach Tuesday’s trade deadline? And more specifically: Should the Patriots trade star cornerback Stephon Gilmore?

Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is one of the league’s premier cover men. He’s also the Patriots’ most valuable trade chip and is extremely unlikely to play next season at his current 2021 salary of $7 million, which the Patriots borrowed from this summer to give Gilmore his $5 million preseason raise.

This is an unfamiliar position for the Patriots, but if a team offers, say, a first-round draft pick for the 30-year-old corner, that’s something Belichick would have to consider. New England does have an emerging star behind Gilmore in J.C. Jackson and solid depth overall in that group with Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams — all of whom have played both corner and safety for the Patriots — plus intriguing undrafted rookie Myles Bryant.

How likely is a Gilmore trade? Hard to say.

Gilmore putting his house on the market last week — and setting the final call for offers for one hour after the trade deadline — was an eyeball-emoji-enducing move, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport both reported Sunday morning the Patriots were unlikely to be sellers.

“My understanding is, do not expect the Patriots to be overly active or active at all at the trade deadline,” Rapoport said on “NFL GameDay.” “And I was told a possible trade for Gilmore is something that was, as of right now, not feasible.”

Jeff Howe of The Athletic wrote the following after Sunday’s loss, which Gilmore missed due to a knee injury:

The fact of the matter is the Patriots won’t move anyone without an acceptable offer on the table, and that has yet to be the case for their most heavily discussed assets. While cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left guard Joe Thuney had come up in conversations in past months, it doesn’t sound as though a trade has ever come close to materializing. Until a team is ready to pony up at the negotiating table, the idea that the Patriots would be sellers is just that — an idea.”

Belichick said Friday he did not believe the outcome of Sunday’s game would impact the Patriots’ trade deadline approach. But that doesn’t mean they won’t move a player like Gilmore if the price is right.

Veteran safety and co-captain Devin McCourty was asked during his postgame video conference about the possibility of a deadline sale.

“We’re just one of those teams,” said McCourty, who’s in his 11th season with the Patriots. “I feel like every year I’ve been here, when the trade deadline comes up, we’re either going to trade someone, trade for someone. Sometimes we don’t but I feel like in this area, this is, like, the trade center of the NFL. People always talk about that.

“So it is what it is. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue to go on with the guys that are here. That’s just how it is. I’ve lost some of my good friends through trades and different things like that. It’s a part of this business. Obviously, those friendships don’t end, but as a team, we’ve always got to keep going.”

The Patriots are scheduled to visit the winless Jets next Monday. We’ll find out Tuesday whether Gilmore will be with them.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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