By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
NFL teams aren't always in the business of giving raises purely on good faith. But the Patriots' No. 1 cornerback deserves one.
As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time first team All-Pro, and an anchor of the Patriots defense, Stephon Gilmore is now paid well below market value on his current contract. His cap hit is the highest in the NFL at $18.6 million, but that's not his fault. He did the Pats a solid, restructuring his contract a year ago to create cap space.
Gilmore has done just about everything you could ask of a player to earn a raise. And he deserves it even more after one of his peers reset the market.
Jalen Ramsey just cashed in more than any other cornerback in history, agreeing to a five-year extension worth $100 million with the Los Angeles Rams. The deal is for $71.2 million guaranteed, so call it five years at $14.2 million annually.
Gilmore is on the books for $11 million in salary and bonuses for 2020. His $10.5 million base is sixth-best in the league (via Spotrac), and he drops to eighth in 2021. The Patriots could give Gilmore a $2.1 million salary hike and leapfrog him over the Broncos' A.J. Bouye as the highest-paid CB for 2020.
The Patriots realistically would not offer Gilmore a long-term extension in Ramsey's range. But with $31.6 million in cap space - and potentially over $100 million in 2021 - they're well within the means to give Gilmore an "attaboy." He's on an all-time run for a defensive back in this franchise. That's a telling statement in itself.
Granting a raise to a deserving player wouldn't be unprecedented, not even in 2020. The Patriots recently converted $900,000 in playing-time incentives for defensive tackle Lawrence Guy into a $200,000 salary bump and $700,000 in per-game roster bonuses. As long as he's healthy and performing like he has since signing with New England, Guy will see every dime.
Gilmore has a rare combination for a Belichick Patriot. He's performed at an extremely high level, and in the biggest games. And he's also done it consistently, motivated to validate his All-Pro status each and every week. Duds like last year's Week 17 loss to the Dolphins are shocking, because they are scarce. And Gilmore certainly could have held out this year, but didn't.
"The good thing about football, every year starts over. So, you know, you’ve got a chance to prove yourself every year," said Gilmore on last year's matchup with Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker. "This is the first game that you get the opportunity to go out there and prove yourself. I take that mindset each and every week no matter what happened last year, the year before."
In theory, the Patriots won't be spending big at quarterback in the next couple of years, unless they feel inclined to do so with Cam Newton. But even so, a little something for arguably the team's most important defensive player can be accomplished easily, without hampering them financially. They're already dealing with a high cap hit. Just like it did with Guy, a raise for Gilmore would set a good example for what it takes to get that kind of reward.
The Patriots have little to lose by rewarding the Defensive Player of the Year. Because as long as Gilmore is on the field, the defense still has a lot to gain.
Cajuste lands on IR
Patriots sophomore tackle Yodny Cajuste is going to start the season on injured reserve for the second time in as many NFL seasons. He was a non-participant at practice this week with a knee injury, per the official injury report.
The silver lining is that Cajuste can return after just three weeks on the shelf, in accordance with the NFL's modified IR rules for the 2020 season. According to NESN's Doug Kyed, Cajuste's knee injury is not considered season-ending.
Cajuste was in line to be a backup tackle. Isaiah Wynn and Jermaine Eluemunor are the projected starters at left tackle and right tackle, respectively.
Lineman signs to practice squad
The Patriots did some more shuffling with the practice squad on Wednesday. They signed offensive lineman Corey Levin, and released former Navy defensive end/converted tight end Paul Quessenberry.
Tennessee originally drafted Levin in the sixth round in 2017. In 2018 he played 16 games and started one at left guard. At Tennessee-Chattanooga, Levin had experience playing left guard, left tackle, and right tackle.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at [email protected].