When New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore went down in a heap with a non-contact leg injury Sunday afternoon, it was easy to fear the worst.
Gilmore appeared to grab at both legs while down on the turf and could barely walk off of the sideline and into the locker room even with the help of trainers.
It turns out Gilmore’s injury diagnosis isn’t as bad as feared, which is great news for all parties but especially the Patriots cornerback. The cornerback partially tore his quad (ouch) and requires surgery but didn’t suffer any “structural damage to his knees,” NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday.
Rapoport later tweeted that Gilmore should be healthy to start the 2021 season.
The Patriots essentially have two options with Gilmore this offseason: pay him or trade him. The situation would have been muddied if Gilmore had suffered a serious knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins since the Patriots, or another team, might have been hesitant to give him a contract commensurate with his play.
The Patriots borrowed $4.5 million from his 2021 salary to give him a pay raise this season. Gilmore is due to earn just a $7 million salary and up to $500,000 in roster bonuses next season. That’s down from a $13 million salary and up to $2.5 million in roster bonuses this season. Gilmore’s potential earnings have been more than halved for next year.
The NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey, Marlon Humphrey, Tre’Davious White, Darius Slay and Byron Jones) all make more than $15 million per year. Gilmore is less than four months younger than Slay, who signed a three-year, $50.5 million contract extension in March. Gilmore also won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season.
If the Patriots aren’t willing to give Gilmore a contract worth more than Slay’s then they might be forced to trade him to a team that will.
The Patriots have a potential top cornerback on their roster in JC Jackson, who’s second in the NFL with eight interceptions this season. Jackson is a restricted free agent after the season, which means the Patriots will either retain him or receive a first-round pick in a potential trade.
In a best-case scenario, the Patriots will keep Gilmore and Jackson (they have cap space). But they should make a priority to hold onto at least one of the talented cornerbacks.