Stephon Gilmore apparently believes he’s among the NFL’s best cornerbacks and would like his pay to reflect that opinion. The league seemingly would agree with that first part, at least.
ESPN on Thursday released its positional rankings for cornerback, and Gilmore — despite an uneven 2020 season — ranked No. 4 on the list. This isn’t a completely arbitrary list, either. ESPN surveyed more than 50 powerful people in the league (executives, coaches, scouts, players) to build the list.
Gilmore ended up behind LA’s Jalen Ramsey, Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey and Miami’s Xavien Howard. The Patriots corner ranked No. 1 in last year’s ranking, but he also got votes for the top spot this year, according to ESPN. The drop-off was in part because of his 2020 season in which he battled injury and some inconsistency.
“(Gilmore) didn’t have a great year, but I don’t think he’s down and out,” one “high-ranking NFL official” told ESPN. “Still very talented. Long, great ball skills. You forget how fast he is until you see him in person. When he gets on your guys, he can frustrate the hell out of you.”
An NFC scout was even more to the point: “He’s still a big-game corner. Would take him over almost anyone.”
Gilmore skipped the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, presumably unhappy with his contract. He has made a good chunk of the money on a five-year, $65 million contract he signed prior to the 2017 season but is slated to make just over $7.7 million in 2021. The Patriots reworked his deal prior to the 2020 season to give him more money in 2020, but that meant reducing his 2021 salary to that $7.7 million figure.
That’s on top of the fact there has been a major reshuffling of cornerback contracts in recent years to the point where Gilmore is the 13th-highest-paid cornerback by yearly average in the NFL right now. He did sign the contract back in 2017, which was more than fair market value at the time, but you can kind of see how someone who the league believes is elite at his position could be miffed by his standing in the financial hierarchy.
That Gilmore is probably the Patriots’ most talented player certainly helps his potential bargaining power. New England, looking at the possibility of another mediocre if not improved campaign, might decide it’s best to trade Gilmore and have someone else pay him.
However, as recently as last month, teams were reportedly reluctant to make a deal for the former Defensive Player of the Year, and Gilmore himself reportedly doesn’t expect to be traded. While the most likely scenario still feels like the two sides finding some sort of common ground, these ESPN rankings are the latest example of just how good and potentially important Gilmore really is.