The Patriots have already established just how busy they’re going to be this off-season. With $66M in cap space this off-season, they already made a big-time move. Early Tuesday morning news broke that the Pats acquired Raiders offensive tackle, Trent Brown. Brown played with the Patriots in 2018 and won a Super Bowl with the team. Brown was two years into a five-year contract and has missed quite some time due to injury. The Patriots picked him up for a 2022 fifth-round pick and gained a 2022 seventh in the transaction. While the Patriots are re-loading on offense, their defense isn’t without the need for attention either. Especially when it comes to former Defensive Player of The Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore is in the final season of his five-year, $65M contract signed during the 2017 off-season.

He has been a fantastic figure on the Patriots defense, winning one Super Bowl in 2018 and making another in his first year with the team. Unfortunately though, like many, 2020 was a down year for the shutdown corner. He tested positive for the ever-so-dangerous COVID-19 virus in week five after a match with the Kansas City Chiefs. Then partially tore his quad in week 15 against the Miami Dolphins. Just one year removed from his award-winning campaign last year, Gilmore has been rumored to be on the trade market for weeks now, some even saying it’s a foregone conclusion that Gilmore won’t be on the team come week one.

Is It the Right Move?
Patriots' Stephon Gilmore out for Sunday's game against Bills - The Boston  Globe

Unfortunately in sports, all good things must come to an end eventually. Patriots fans know this all too well, being nearly a year removed from their quarterback of 20 years Tom Brady taking his talents to Tampa Bay. It rings the same when it comes to Gilmore. If the Patriots trade him they open up $7.3M in the cap and can further improve the team. All the while commanding a solid return for Gilmore, who in my eyes could potentially get a late first-round pick at the highest of bids. Though I think it’s more realistic the Patriots get a second-rounder out of Gilmore given the contract, injury, and age.

Gilmore’s case for being kept doesn’t get easier when you look at the rise of the guy who plays on the other side of him, J.C. Jackson. Jackson was one of the only bright spots on this Patriots defense last season, amounting to a second-best nine interceptions in 16 games started. When Gilmore wasn’t there, Jackson carved out a respectable role as a number one corner. There’s only one problem that makes it so this duo can’t stay together. J.C. Jackson is a restricted free agent and will be demanding a lot of money here soon. You can’t keep both of these guys. It’s obvious that the Patriots should roll with the younger option in Jackson (25, Gilmore is 31) for the coming years ahead.

Parting Thoughts
Stephon Gilmore's interception was the whole Super Bowl in the making -  Pats Pulpit

If this is really the end of Gilmore’s tenure in Foxborough, it’s been one hell of a ride. So many epic memories came from the big-time free agent signing. The image above in the game-sealing interception in Super Bowl LIII, or the game-sealing deflection in the 2017-18 AFC Championship game here;

If the Patriots were Super Bowl contenders coming into the 2021-22 season, I would be adamant about keeping Gilmore. But they’re not, so I’m adamant about trading him for whatever value he may have, which I project is still fairly high. It doesn’t make this move any easier, but it’s time to rip off the band-aid. If this is truly it, then to Stephon Gilmore, you’ve been the best corner this team has had since Ty Law in the late 1990s and early 2000s. You’ve embraced what it’s meant to be a true Patriot and stepped up in the most crucial of moments. Although as we all know, there comes a time where the roads split. There’s a red jacket waiting for you at Patriot Place when you call it a career. Thank you for an amazing four years and congratulations on all you’ve accomplished while here.

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content Belly Up Sports has to offer here!

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Kaleb McChesney

Boston Sports Fanatic Located out of New Hampshire, USA Patriots Beat Writer on BellyUpSports.com Founder of Foxboro Beat

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