Every Saturday in the offseason, one question from Twitter will be selected and expounded upon based on a hot topic surrounding the New England Patriots:
@MikeReiss what was it about Gilmore which made the patriots want to pay so much for a free-agent?
— Mark Smith (@marksmith121) July 14, 2017
Mark, there are several things about cornerback Stephon Gilmore that appeal to the Patriots, who signed him to a five-year, $65 million deal:
His size. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he is hard to throw over. In today’s NFL, with most teams having one bigger receiver (and oftentimes multiple bigger receivers), that size for a defensive back is appealing.
Physicality. With that size, Gilmore is effective playing a physical approach. He can play man coverage and likes to get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Runs well. If it was only about size and physicality, teams wouldn’t have to search so hard to find top corners. Speed is a big part of the equation, and Gilmore runs well.
Intelligence. Gilmore is considered a heady player who will buy into the program.
When you package all that together, some might ask the question, “Why would the Bills let a player like that go in the first place?” Consider that the Bills have a new regime under head coach Sean McDermott, and he comes from a defensive system in Carolina that doesn’t always value top corners as much as other positions because of its reliance on zone coverage. One example of this was how Carolina, in similar fashion to what Buffalo did with Gilmore, had let top cornerback Josh Norman become a free agent in 2016. Also, Gilmore had some struggles last season in what observers have called an up-and-down campaign for him.
One thought to consider on Gilmore’s time in Buffalo is that he played under four defensive coordinators in five years, as well as three different head coaches. Sometimes that lack of stability can create an obstacle for a player to perform to his capabilities. In New England, Gilmore should experience more stability in that regard, and perhaps the Patriots are thinking that will bring out the best in him.