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New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 18: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots looks on before the game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium on October 18, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

A year removed from his Defensive Player of the Year season, Stephon Gilmore’s football future is up in the air. His NFL career is far from over, but how the next few years go could play out in a number of ways.

As it stands right now, Gilmore is under contract with the Patriots through 2021. However, he’s scheduled to make just $7 million, a number he likely won’t (and honestly shouldn’t) play under. At the same time, his cap hit is $17 million, which the team probably wants to change.

One way of fixing both problems would be working out a long-term extension for the 30-year-old cornerback. Before this past season, Jalen Ramsey became the first $20 million per year cornerback in the NFL, and any deal for Gilmore will likely be in the same ballpark. His study habits and work ethic are invaluable, and Bill Belichick may be willing to overspend a bit to keep such an ideal ‘lead by example’ player in the building.

Oct 5, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) defends against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

However, with their depth at cornerback and holes elsewhere on the roster, perhaps the Patriots will feel that money could best be spent elsewhere. If that’s the goal, a trade could be on the table. 

There’s two kinds of trades the Patriots could make centered around Gilmore. One approach could be to shift him for picks and/or younger players, and take the opportunity to fill multiple holes in the roster with development players. If Belichick really does hope to take a pass catcher and quarterback in the first round of the draft, this would be a way to do so.

On the other hand, the Patriots could look for a team in a similar situation with an established player at another position, and try a one-for-one swap. 

Oct 18, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) breaks up a pass to Denver Broncos receiver DaeSean Hamilton (17) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Take the Philadelphia Eagles for instance. Due in large part to injuries and inconsistent quarterback play, they finished 2020 as one of the worst teams in the NFL. However, with a number of talented players still on their roster and a projected $70 million in cap space, a quick turnaround isn’t out of the question.

In trying to jump start things, would they look to move Zach Ertz? Like Gilmore, he’s turning 30, due less in real cash than he’s counting against the cap, and the team has good depth behind him in Dallas Goedert. 

With Darius Slay’s first year in Philly being an underwhelming one, could the Eagles look to create an elite cornerback pairing at the expense of a tight end who has seemingly phased out the last two seasons? That’s just one example, but it’s the kind of deal Belichick could be looking to make to kick his own team’s retooling into high gear.

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 20: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots stretches before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

There’s a number of different things that could happen with Gilmore in the coming months, but the one thing we do know is that something will likely happen. Given Gilmore’s status, ability, and the money involved, he should be one of if not the first major domino to fall for the Patriots this offseason.

It’s hard to imagine Gilmore wouldn’t take the chance to cash in on his DPOTY season, especially after the knee injury scare he had in Miami. And with a chance to open up an additional $10 million in cap space, the team should be more than motivated to figure something out as well. 

Click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s complete coverage of the Patriots.

Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.