An idea that’s been floating around since the start of the season, the Patriots have reportedly given further thought to shipping 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore elsewhere before the trade deadline.
Right before New England’s miserable outing against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, NFL Reporter Albert Breer appeared on NBC Sports Boston to reveal something that Pats Nation will have a hard time coming to terms with: it’s probably time for the Pats to begin to rebuild.
“They absolutely did have conversations with other teams about trading Stephon Gilmore,” said Breer on the show, “and if you’re not going to be competing for a championship… see what you can get, because odds are he’s not going to be on the team in 2021.”
The idea of not competing for a championship is a rare concept for Boston sports fans, but if you thought New England had Super Bowl aspirations before Sunday, the game might have convinced you otherwise. So what’s the logic behind trading Gilmore?
Whether or not a struggling team should commit to keeping one of its star players strongly depends on two variables: age and salary. If Gilmore could remain elite while the Pats go through the motions of rebuilding, then it makes sense to keep him. However, Gilmore’s already 30 years old, and it could be several years before Coach/GM Belichick forms another team that can make a Super Bowl push.
Pair that with the fact that the team’s still paying Gilmore’s five-year, $65 million contract, and it becomes reasonable to see why Belichick wouldn’t want an expensive player to live his twilight years on a rebuilding squad.
As NBC Sports’ Tom Curran noted in his own take on the idea, the salary cap might shrink next year due to limitations from COVID-19, so frugality might be the theme around the league as a whole.
That said, there’s also a good argument against the move. Albert Breer went on to mention that the last 10 players to be traded for first round picks were 27 years old or younger. Even though Gilmore’s one of the best at his position, teams might find it risky to trade a first-round pick for someone entering their thirties; their productivity could drop off quickly with age.
Breer suggested a second-rounder may be the asking price for Gilmore at the moment.
Now, at that point, the trade doesn’t seem worth it. The Patriots don’t have a great relationship with second-round picks, trading one last season in an effete acquisition of Mohamed Sanu and trading Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-rounder years prior. Following a stomping at the hands of the very same Jimmy G, the Pats now face the prospect of losing their best player for another mediocre draft pick.
Additionally, if Belichick has any weakness, it’s drafting. Whiffing on high picks like WR N’Keal Harry and arguably RB Sony Michel (considering RB Nick Chubb was still on the board) are part of the reason New England’s in this jam in the first place.
The decision will depend on what they can get in return, and from what team. The draft pick a team trades depends on the place they finish in the standings, so a first-round pick from the Chiefs is almost identical to a second-rounder from the Jets. If Belichick can snag a mid first-round pick for Gilmore, or even a second-and-fourth combo, perhaps, then the trade has the likelihood of being a success.
Between Gilmore’s 2019 DPOY award and the pedigree of coming from the Patriots, though, I do think Belichick could pull off a solid first-round pick in exchange for the CB. Whether he can turn that pick into a success is another question, but in the face of a rebuild, it’s worth a shot.
Then again, maybe Cam Newton’s struggles and the defense’s woes are a temporary slump, and maybe Belichick will keep Stephon Gilmore around for one more Super Bowl run. That’s always a possibility…right?