Yesterday it was the Cowboys and Jaylon Smith and today its the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore who will be released according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who properly described this release as a stunner .
A stunner: Patriots are releasing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform List after Week 6, source tells ESPN. pic.twitter.com/31H8KQF8hq— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 6, 2021
Gilmore is just two years removed from being the defensive player of the year, but was injured last season and had played in no games this year while residing on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Gilmore had long been unhappy with his contract following his 2019 performance and pretty much made his displeasure known and one would think his release may have to do with that.
The Patriots, as a middle ground, agreed to pay Gilmore $3 million of his 2021 salary in 2020 and give him a very unlikely chance of earning a $2 million incentive. While that pacified the situation for a season the reduction in salary from 2021 was going to make him more unhappy with the contract once this year hit if the Patriots would not extend him or again modify the contract. Despite spending millions on outside players they did not touch Gilmore’s contract again and give a raise or any salary guarantee.
There are two ways to look at the release. One is that Gilmore was likely to come off the PUP list soon and suit up for New England. The team would need to insert him into the lineup and hope whatever ill feelings there were about the contract did not spill over to the field or locker room. It was almost a certainty that Gilmore would be asked about his contract status over and over once back. So perhaps they needed to get away from a distraction.
The Patriots also have very little in the way of cap space this year, about $2.5 million. They have a roster filled with players with large per game bonuses which will eat into that cap space during the year. They also have a few players who may qualify for injury protection from last season which would be a big charge if they were to qualify and file for the benefit.
Releasing Gilmore will give the team breathing room. They will be responsible for 5/18ths of his salary- $1,944,444- and save $5.055 million. They will also keep his $8.53 million proration charge bringing the total cap cost to $10,474,563. The immediate cap savings will be $5.79 million and they will also not be responsible for a potential 17th game bonus and other per game bonus charges. These savings probably made the release easier to consider.
I would expect Gilmore to get a good look as a free agent by a contending team but I am not sure if a team at this stage of the season will sign a long term deal or not. I would lean more toward a heavily incentivized one year contract with a chance for free agency next season.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.