Stephon Gilmore is headed to New England, barring any snags. After a five-year career with the Buffalo Bills, the top cornerback on the free agent market is signing a deal with the Patriots, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Patriots are giving former Bills CB Stephon Gilmore a five-year, $65 million deal that includes $40 million guaranteed, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
That’s not exactly the kind of free agent bargain we’re used to seeing the Patriots make, but it’s a massive upgrade to their defensive backfield, which was already pretty good.
Gilmore replaces Logan Ryan as the other starter opposite Malcolm Butler. They let Ryan walk in free agency this year, and while Ryan had been effective, Gilmore represents a big step up from Ryan.
It’s fair to say, on paper at least, that New England now has a secondary equal to that of their conference rivals in Denver. They’ll have Gilmore and Butler at corner and Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty at the two safety spots.
The Patriots were already the odds-on favorites for another Super Bowl appearance this season. Adding Gilmore only boosts their chances.
After a stellar college career at South Carolina, Gilmore was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. He’s lived up to that draft billing, earning a contract that will make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks.
Gilmore made his first Pro Bowl in 2016, after a season in which he tallied 12 pass defenses and a career-high five interceptions in 15 games. The cornerback’s 62 career passes defensed, 14 interceptions, and three forced fumbles in five seasons attest to Gilmore’s playmaking ability. Gilmore has been heavily relied upon as a top corner throughout his NFL career.
The blockbuster contract should be no surprise for Gilmore, who may well have been the surest bet of any free agent cornerback on the market. While names like A.J. Bouye, Trumaine Johnson, and Morris Claiborne have stuck out at the top of free agent cornerback lists, Gilmore comes with the best draft pedigree and most production of any young free agent cornerback. And with Gilmore turning 27 in late September, there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.