July is just around the corner and the Patriots are almost ready for the start of training camp, which will take place in just a few more weeks. There are a couple of loose ends Bill Belichick would probably like to tie up before then, most notably the Stephon Gilmore situation.
Not much has changed on that front over the past few weeks. The veteran corner hasn't been on the field at all this offseason, including during the recently completed mandatory minicamp. An NFL Network report indicated Gilmore was sufficiently recovered from the torn quad that cut his 2020 season a couple of weeks short, so he's physically ready to get back to work.
But most people around the situation feel that won't happen unless/until he sees some sort of adjustment to his contract. The Patriots agreed to give him an advance last season, moving a few million dollars from his 2021 salary to 2020. That leaves his current number at just $7 million in terms of base salary, well below the market value for a player of his caliber.
Gilmore may not have played quite to the level of his 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year heights, but he was still rather formidable a year ago. And his absence was quite noticeable down the stretch when his injury forced others into more prominent roles and the results were not good.
That was most obvious in the Monday night beatdown at the hands of the Bills when Josh Allen repeatedly picked on J.C. Jackson and Buffalo racked up 344 yards and four touchdowns through the air in a 38-9 victory. So, Gilmore still means a lot to the Patriots secondary, and finding a way to keep him happy and engaged is important.
How that happens remains unclear, but the feeling is that an agreement of some kind will be reached. One low-cost measure might be to simply sweeten the pot a bit and offer more money for the 2021 season. That would mean a simple raise in salary for Gilmore (both in terms of his actual money and on the cap), which frees the Patriots from any potential future ramifications that would come via an extension.
Adding say $3 million would likely be amenable to the Patriots but Gilmore may be looking for more. The team may not be comfortable adding years given the fact that he's coming off a major injury, and any possible extension may have to wait until after the 2021 season as a result.
But assuming Belichick wants Gilmore to anchor the secondary once again come September, he may need to cough up a few more dollars to make it happen.
Common sense would dictate that Belichick didn't spend as much time and money shoring up the defense as he did if he planned to just let Gilmore walk. The injury effectively took him off the trade market (at least for now), and aside from adding the versatile Jalen Mills no other resources were spent trying to potentially replace the team's best cover man.
However, the defense did undergo a dramatic change along the front seven. So much so that it's not easy to even identify who the starters and key personnel might be. The run defense should improve dramatically with the likes of Henry Anderson, Davon Godchaux, Montravius Adams and rookie Christian Barmore joining Lawrence Guy in the middle. The pass rush could see a return to the versatile looks featured in 2019 when Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were part of a devastating group that allowed the fewest points in the league.
Add Josh Uche, Matt Judon and rookie Ronnie Perkins to that mix, and perhaps figuring out how and where the likes of Deatrich Wise (interior rusher?) and Chase Winovich might be best used and the potential for a strong pass rush exists.
All of this is a long way of saying it's possible that there will be less pressure on the secondary to cover because of the increased pressure being applied by the guys up front – perhaps mitigating a potential loss of Gilmore.
Certainly not an ideal situation but one that the Patriots defense may be much more suited to handle this time around.
Throwing it back
It always amazes me how much attention the old Pat Patriot logo receives around New England. I prefer that logo to the Flying Elvis like many others, but not to the point where it elicits much passion either way.
Apparently I'm in the minority because last week's announcement from the league that teams would once again be allowed to use multiple helmets while wearing throwback uniform flooded my mailbox almost as much as people looking for tickets to a certain Week 4 contest in October (no, I don't have tickets by the way).
There's an excitement to see the Patriots once again don the red jerseys and Pat Patriot helmets, which will now be able to take place at some point in the coming years. Personally, the uniforms of the late-1970s would be my preferred choice with the stripes on the sleeves instead of the mid-1980s version usually worn with the stripes up on the shoulders. But either way, fans will get their wish soon.
In the coming weeks Patriots.com will provide plenty of positional snapshot previews to get everyone ready for the start of camp. We'll offer some insight and predictions of what's to come as well, but it's not too early to give a small peek at some things we see coming down the road.
In discussing the defense earlier it's hard to find spots for everyone and it's no secret that given the amount of talent Belichick brought in along the front seven that roster spots will not be easy to come by. Shortly after the draft I wrote about the increased competition level that will unfold based on the positions the Patriots drafted, focusing on Barmore, Perkins and to a lesser extent (only because he's injured) Cameron McGrone.
Veterans such as Byron Cowart, Carl Davis, Akeem Spence, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Harvey Langi, Terez Hall, Anfernee Jennings and Winovich will need to earn spots with strong play in camp. Obviously there's not room for everyone, and it's more than likely that a handful of the above players will be sent packing at some point. Tough for the coaches but should make for great watching and evaluating once camp kicks off.
In what has become an annual tradition, the Patriots rookies reportedly recently visited and toured the Patriots Hall of Fame, getting a chance to learn about and understand the team's vast history of success. It was a chance for the group to experience some of the highlights of the team's championship past, including a viewing of the "Patriots Way" film in the Raytheon Technologies Theatre.