Stephon Gilmore Contract Situation Might Force Patriots to Resort to Drastic Roster Measures With Major Implications for the Regular Season

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is in the midst of one of the quietest contract hold-ins ever, but soon the Pats will have to define his status on the current roster.

Gilmore is at Patriots camp but has not been practicing or playing as he lobbies for a new contract. Either New England signs the former Defensive Player of the Year to a new deal, or it risks possibly having Gilmore start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and missing the first six weeks of 2021.

The Patriots list Stephon Gilmore as “day-to-day” even though it’s unknown whether he’s really injured

On Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had a redundant message for reporters when they inquired about Gilmore’s status: he’s back when he’s back. That essentially means nothing in this case.

New England has not specifically disclosed the nature of Gilmore’s purported “injury.” Belichick himself has said Gilmore is “day-to-day” for weeks now. It’s more likely the star cornerback is politely declining to participate in football activities while the details of a new contract are being worked out.

Gilmore is in the final season of his current deal and has sought new money for some time. Some murmurings earlier in the offseason suggested the Patriots were still open to trading him, though such a situation never materialized.

However, Stephon Gilmore’s contract situation can’t be ignored or put off much longer. The Patriots need to work something out or be resigned to the notion that they will be without their top cornerback for a fairly substantial part of the regular season.

Gilmore could miss the first six weeks if he is placed on the regular season PUP list

The Patriots need to make roster moves over the course of the next week-plus, cutting from 80 to 53 players. That could loom large as far as Stephon Gilmore is concerned.

If the 30-year-old intends to play, he might simply pass a physical and shift to the active roster. However, if the contract takes precedent and Gilmore continues to hold out, then New England could be forced to have him start the regular season on the PUP list.

The latter scenario could be dangerous territory for the Patriots. Players who start the regular season on the PUP list are mandated to sit out the first six weeks. Thus, New England could deprive its secondary of a lockdown corner of massive import to Belichick’s defense.

Gilmore might be getting older and is coming off a quad injury that required surgery this past December, but he had been one of the top corners in the NFL from 2018 to 2020. He was named All-Pro in 2018 and 2019, leading the NFL in interceptions (6) and passes defended (20) in 2019 en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Although Gilmore had just one interception and three passes defended in 11 games last season, he held opposing passers to a completion rate below 58% and gave up just one touchdown in coverage. He remains as legitimate a lockdown corner as any in the NFL and a crucial figure on the Patriots roster.

New England isn’t revealing much about contract talks

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore stands on the field during a game in December
Stephon Gilmore’s situation should be resolved, one way or another, in the next couple of weeks | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

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Patriots fans might feel in the dark as far as Stephon Gilmore’s contract negotiations are concerned. That’s because New England isn’t revealing much about the status of those negotiations.

On the one hand, Gilmore does not seem acrimonious or overtly upset with the team. He is in team facilities and doing work behind the scenes. However, this could also simply indicate Gilmore is a consummate professional.

Patriots fans might not like to admit it, but it sure is possible Gilmore is privately expressing frustration. His numbers and the accolades speak to his status among the elite corners in the game, yet New England won’t commit him more money.

The next couple of weeks are critical for the Patriots. They can likely ensure Gilmore will be on the field at or close to the start of the regular season by finalizing the terms of a new contract. Otherwise, New England could be without its star corner in the early goings.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.