FOXBORO, Mass. — Stephon Gilmore’s desire for a new contract has kept him away from mandatory minicamp and put his future with the New England Patriots in doubt.
But safety Devin McCourty seems to believe Gilmore will be back on the field for New England before long.
Speaking after Tuesday’s minicamp practice, McCourty expressed confidence that Gilmore and the Patriots will resolve the star cornerback’s contract situation.
“(He’s) obviously still fully part of this team,” McCourty said in a video conference. “A lot of guys have talked to him this offseason and keep in contact with him. I think, like always — obviously, it’s my 12th year in the league — you see things like this happen. It kind of works itself out on its own, and you kind of let the player worry about that. But I think as far as us as teammates and our defense with him in it, I’m excited for that just as much as anything.
“(Gilmore is) a guy that obviously, his season got cut short last year (by a partially torn quad in December), and he’s gonna be working hard to get back and get to that level of play that he’s been at the last couple of years, and I’m excited to see him do that. Obviously one of the hardest working guys I’ve been around. The Quiet Assassin is doing what he needs to do to be back out there playing good football.”
Gilmore, who is set to earn just $7 million in salary this season, skipped the entire voluntary portion of the Patriots’ offseason program and has been a no-show through two days of mandatory minicamp. Head coach Bill Belichick expects Gilmore to sit out Wednesday’s minicamp finale, as well.
It’s unclear whether the Patriots plan to fine Gilmore for his absence. Per the NFL collective bargaining agreement, they can dock him $93,085 if he misses all three minicamp practices.
The Patriots boast one of the NFL’s top cornerback duos in Gilmore and J.C. Jackson — plus a rock-solid slot in Jonathan Jones — but their outside corner depth gets murky if one of their starters is unavailable. With veteran Jason McCourty now in Miami, versatile newcomer Jalen Mills has been the top option in Gilmore’s usual spot this week.
Mills, who made a number of positive plays in coverage Tuesday, primarily played as a wide corner early in his career but might be better suited for the Swiss Army knife role he played for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, when he split his snaps between wide, slot, strong safety and free safety alignments.
Devin McCourty didn’t sound worried about needing to replace Gilmore, or about Gilmore missing spring practice reps.
“I mean, Gilly’s still under contract, so when he comes back in, he does what he does,” he said. “And we all know that. I’ve been talking to him; he’s still a part of this team, and when he comes in, I don’t think we have to change much. He fits in where he fits in, and it doesn’t take much to see where he fits in.
“I don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. Our defense kind of is what it is, year in and year out. Obviously, we add new things. We do some things a little different depending on personnel and who’s here. But what Gilly can do and what he brings to the table is still a huge part of the defense, and when he gets back, that’ll be what it is, and all of that will work itself out.”