The New England Patriots Set the Tone on Day 1 in Free Agency

               As many Patriots fans were waking up, or already in the midst of their commute to work, school, etc.  The highlight in the football world was just upon us with the start of free agency (OFFICIALLY) at 4 pm.  However though, how exciting is it ever for New England during this time of year? Never, seems like.  Bill Belichick and company standard rule of thumb on this annual occasion is to sit back, let the first couple of days blow over, and then strike.  But apparently this day will go down in historic fashion for New England as they landed the first surprise bomb shell of free agency, coming to terms with former Buffalo Bill star cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

                With many restricted and unrestricted free agents within the organization the general thought in New England seemed to be simple, take care of your own and fill in the voids.  Guys like Alan Branch, Logan Ryan, Donte Hightower and Malcolm Butler all worthy of pay raises, and coming off a second Championship in the last three years, one would think the Patriots would stick to doing a lot of their spending in house.

However it was clear that coach Belichick had other ideas, as he swarmed in and plucked Gilmore from the rival Bills for a five-year $65 million deal, $40 million guaranteed.  Truth-be-told we haven’t seen this from New England since 2007, when they signed Adalius Thomas (Linebacker) for five-year worth $35 million, $20M guaranteed.  In case you forgot on how that panned out, not nearly as well as they had hoped when paying him that hefty lump sum, hence the reason why that memory is cloudy at best.

Stephon Gilmore will join a good secondary intact (as of now) and adds some height to this unit that generally lacks in that department.  He’s 6’1”, with good ball skills, very athletic and like Malcolm Butler considered to be a young shutdown corner.  Drafted in 2012 (10th overall) Gilmore is coming off a Pro Bowl year and a career-high with 5 interceptions.

The question now however is what’s next…? With both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore the Patriots have arguably the league’s top cornerback duel in the league (IF) Malcolm makes it to the summer.  Maybe Gilmore is next up as a replacement, if they can’t come to terms with Butler and they sign Logan Ryan back for a team friendly deal.  Lastly, could they do the absolute unthinkable and with all this cap space add Gilmore as their big day 1 splash free agent, and sign both Butler to an extension and bring back Donte Hightower and be the definitive favorite going into next season? Lots to think about for New England and their fans…  The quest for six however has officially launched today.

 

Galen Campbell

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