New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 29: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to facing the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium on November 29, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson dealt with Bill Belichick firsthand. So he has reason to believe that when Stephon Gilmore tweeted about his contract, the Pats’ All-Pro cornerback only made things more challenging between him and the head coach/GM.

“What Stephon Gilmore did was pretty much light a match and throw it on the fire when he sent out that tweet yesterday with the top-10 list of corners in the league that are highest paid, and he’s not on that list,” Johnson said Wednesday on NBC Sports Boston. “Basically, saying he wants to be on that list.

“This is a big, big story, and how Bill Belichick handles this situation, I think, is going to be very important, and probably the most interesting storyline, besides the quarterback battle, going into training camp.”

Recent reports have suggested that Gilmore’s contract holdout with the Patriots is strictly business and not contentious, and that a new deal would be worked out in due time. Johnson gets the sense that the two sides are further apart than it seems, especially after Gilmore’s not-so-cryptic tweet.

“The Patriots want everyone to think that they’re working towards a deal, but clearly they are not,” Johnson said. “They need this guy on this defense. You don’t go out and improve the front-seven like you did and not sign Stephon Gilmore. He’s the key to the whole thing on defense. He’s a shutdown corner, man-to-man guy, you can do a lot of blitzing and shut off one half of the field. If Bill Belichick wants this team to get where he wants it to go, he has to have Stephon Gilmore on this team. And the Patriots, at the end of the day, are going to have to pay this guy, I think, if they want to capitalize and validate all those free agents they picked up just a couple of months ago.”

It’s well-documented how Belichick isn’t a fan of social media – “SnapFace,” as he amusingly referred to the medium one time. So he can’t possibly be happy that Gilmore is airing the proverbial dirty laundry at the worst place on the internet.

Does Belichick have a choice? Gilmore is arguably (perhaps inarguably) the Patriots’ best overall player. If it turns out that the Pats need to trade him instead of give him a new contract, the secondary and defense as a whole would take a significant hit.

But would it make any sense not to keep and pay Gilmore, after buying all those free agents and drafting a quarterback in the first round? Johnson doesn’t believe so. You can hear more from him about this next Monday, July 5, when he’s in with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Matt McCarthy for Felger and Mazz.

MORE: Stephon Gilmore Takes Displeasure To Twitter

MORE: Gilmore Contract Dispute ‘Just Business’

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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 and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.