New England Patriots

Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots looks on prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots are moving on from cornerback Stephon Gilmore, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The 31-year-old cornerback released a statement on Twitter shortly after the news broke.

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my goodbye to this great fan base. We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements. Thank you for supporting this Rock Hill kid and allowing him to achieve his NFL dreams,” Gilmore wrote.

“To Mr. Kraft, the coaches, and the organization thank you for providing me this platform and allowing me to be part of greatness,” he continued. “Most of all I want to thank my teammates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind. Those moments on and off the field will never be forgotten.”

Gilmore had been engaged in a ‘hold-in’ since the spring, reporting for training camp but not participating as he worked his way back from a torn quad late last year. The team placed Gilmore on PUP before the start of the regular season – he would have been eligible to return after Week 6.

The issues regarding Gilmore’s contract date back to before the 2020 season. After winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, Gilmore wanted a pay raise on the five-year, $65 million contract he’d signed in 2017. In order to make that happen, the cap-strapped Patriots moved money up from 2021 to 2020, instead of adding new money to the deal.

CINCINNATI, OHIO - DECEMBER 15: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots leaves the field after the Patriots defeated the Bengals 34-13 in the game at Paul Brown Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI, OHIO – DECEMBER 15: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots leaves the field after the Patriots defeated the Bengals 34-13 in the game at Paul Brown Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

Because of that, Gilmore was set to earn about $7 million this true money this year, which would have made him the 26th-highest-paid corner of the league in 2021. As he recovered from the torn quad that prematurely ended his 2020 season, reports indicated he and the team were working toward a new deal. Gilmore remained in the building working with the team’s other cornerbacks, and assistant coach Mike Pellegrino even referred to him as ‘Coach Steph’ at one point.

Trade rumors regarding Gilmore have circulated since before the 2020 season. Gilmore’s name came up in the days leading up to the 2020 trade deadline, and then again over the summer of 2021.

At 31 years old, the Patriots likely didn’t want to give Gilmore a long-term contract. In 2020, there were only nine cornerbacks age 31 or older to even play in the NFL, with only five playing at least 14 games. Jason McCourty, with the Patriots at the time, was the only one to play all 16.

According to the NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, a short-term solution was possible, but didn’t come to fruition. “Gilmore was open to taking a sweetened one-year deal,” Giardi tweeted. “Much like he did a season ago.”

Gilmore had been with the Patriots since 2017, when the Patriots have him a big-money deal in free agency instead of paying Darrelle Revis or extending Malcolm Butler. After a bumpy first month, he emerged as one of the premier shutdown corners in the NFL. He was named First-Team All-Pro in 2018 and 2019, the latter also being the year he won Defensive Player of the Year. Among his most notable moments with the Patriots were his game-sealing pass breakup in the 2017 AFC Championship Game, and his Super Bowl-clinching interception of Jared Goff in 2018.

Without Gilmore, the Patriots’ cornerbacks are now J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade, and Justin Bethel. The team also has D’Angelo Ross on the practice squad, plus Myles Bryant, who played in Week 4 against the Buccaneers.

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