FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One thing about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots is to expect the unexpected. That certainly qualifies with Thursday’s news that free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore intends to sign with the team, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Terms: Five years, $65 million with $40 million in bonuses and guarantees.
ESPN 150 ranking: Seventh
Grade B: This is a lot of money to spend on a player from outside the system when there is a high-level cornerback in Malcolm Butler who had been in negotiations for an extension. In terms of aggressiveness, though, it is an A, as few saw the Patriots making this type of signing for a player who is considered arguably the top cornerback on the market.
What it means: The addition of Gilmore will have a direct impact on free-agent cornerback Logan Ryan, who almost certainly won’t be back with the Patriots. Ryan was a 2013 third-round pick of the Patriots out of Rutgers and is an unrestricted free agent. (Editor's note: Ryan signed with the Titans on Thursday night.) From a bigger-picture standpoint, Gilmore’s arrival also could have a trickle-down effect on Butler. This offseason, Butler is a restricted free agent who has been tendered at the first-round level of $3.91 million. If Butler doesn’t sign the tender, Gilmore gives the Patriots another cornerback on the 2017 roster with No. 1 corner-caliber traits, and even opens up the possibility that the Patriots could trade Butler.
More on Gilmore: He entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice (10th overall) out of South Carolina in 2012 and turns 27 on Sept. 19. Gilmore is in his prime years, although he is coming off a down year for him. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he has man cover skills and top-end athleticism. He is a bigger corner and with more bigger receivers across the NFL, he helps the Patriots better match up against them. In July, he told Bills reporters he considers himself one of the best corners in the NFL. "I include myself ... Pat P [Patrick Peterson] does it pretty good. I like Chris Harris Jr., [Aqib] Talib, they do it good. Who else? [Richard] Sherman, he’s a good player. Everybody’s got a different style, they’re not just man-to-man style. They do it different ways."
Hightower effect: One natural follow-up question is how the agreement with Gilmore might impact the Patriots’ plans with linebacker Dont’a Hightower. It should be independent of anything specific to Hightower, as the Patriots have plenty of salary-cap space and cash to spend.