The Buffalo Bills showed financial discipline by not caving to top cornerback Stephon Gilmore's lofty contract demands, but their front office seeing news Thursday that he is expected to sign with the New England Patriots will still sting.
From a salary-cap management standpoint, the Bills have made the right moves with Gilmore. When he sat out voluntary offseason activities last spring and labeled himself among the elite cornerbacks in the NFL, the Bills did not flinch and give him an extension. When they had the option to assign a $14 million franchise tag to him earlier this month that would have severely restricted their salary cap, they turned it down.
Had everything gone according to plan, Gilmore would have signed with the Chicago Bears -- who had reportedly shown interest this week -- or another team in another division. General manager Doug Whaley and the Bills could have waved bon voyage as Gilmore packed up and collected his millions elsewhere.
Instead, the Patriots made the stunning and rare move to splurge in free agency, inking Gilmore to a deal that will certainly put him near the top of the list of the NFL's highest-paid cornerbacks.
It will also mean Gilmore lines up against top Bills receiver Sammy Watkins (assuming he's healthy) for two games every season, rather than the occasional reunion had Gilmore left for greener pastures in Chicago or elsewhere.
Gilmore's inconsistent play last season might not have made him worth the top-of-the-market deal he expected to receive, but he is still a good player. For most of training camp last summer, Gilmore was excellent. He slipped once the regular season began, playing perhaps his worst game against the Patriots in a Week 8 loss.
But Gilmore is a streaky player who recovered later in the season to reaffirm his value as one of the league's top free agents. Given the Bills' recent luck, he might play his best games against Buffalo next season.