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New England Patriots: Why Stephon Gilmore Will Return Amid Tense Contract Situation

Stephon Gilmore is unhappy with his current contract with the New England Patriots — and he has every right to be.

As the Patriots prepare to begin training camp on July 28, the biggest news coming out of New England is that of their former NFL Defensive Player of the Year’s current contract situation.

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The veteran cornerback — who is just one of two corners that have been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years — is due to earn just a base salary of $7 million this season.

According to Spotrac, Gilmore places 26th among all cornerbacks in the league as far as earnings are concerned for the 2021 season.

Speaking on his unhappiness regarding his salary, Gilmore was rather blunt in what he’s looking for from the Patriots.

I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out,” Gilmore told NFL Network’s Josina Anderson. “Every player should be paid what they’re worth. That’s just how it is.”

“Hopefully, we can find some common ground and get it situated,” Gilmore said to Anderson. “I just know what I bring to the table and my style of play. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on myself and make sure I’m good mentally and physically.”

Gilmore is right. Despite a quad injury in 2020 that resulted in surgery over the offseason and the fact that he’s on the verge of turning 31 years old, the four-time Pro Bowler deserves a lot more money.

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And while Bill Belichick may not be sweating Gilmore’s decision to skip mandatory minicamp, here is why the latter holds some leverage — the Patriots can’t afford to lose veteran leaders.

Gilmore is simply the Patriots’ top player entering the 2021 season and it’s not even a debate.

Furthermore, despite New England’s lackluster 7-9 season last year, the defense — especially the secondary — remains the team’s strength.

In fact, the Patriots ranked No. 1 in interceptions and pass attempts allowed and fifth in passing touchdowns allowed last season.

Considering the influx of new players that the Patriots are bringing in — they spent $159.6 million in guaranteed money, an NFL record, during free agency — combined with the departures of key veteran holdovers such as Julian Edelman, Marcus Cannon, Patrick Chung and Jason McCourty, New England cannot afford to lose Gilmore.

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The Patriots are expecting to contend for a title in 2021. This is not going to be a rebuilding year based upon last season’s record or the fact that New England may start rookie quarterback Mac Jones this season.

Bringing Gilmore back just further helps the Patriots’ quest for a seventh Super Bowl championship during the Bill Belichick era.

Scott Pioli — current NFL Network analyst and former Vice President of Player Personnel for the Patriots — believes both sides will work a new contract out.

“I don’t think either side has much leverage,” said Pioli. “Part of what’s going on here is that we don’t know what’s going on at all. And that’s usually how the Patriots do business. It’s a way they’ve been very successful.”

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“It’s only June 15 and its early,” continued Pioli. “Games are not going to be played for another three months. They will work this out.”

If your name wasn’t Tom Brady, it was unheard of for Belichick to hand out a contract extension or a new deal to a player north of age 30.

But these are different times — and the Patriots are more desperate than they’ve ever been during the Belichick era.

The Patriots need Gilmore if they hope to become contenders again this season.

Expect both sides to reach a deal on a multi-year contract before the Patriots take the field in their season opener on Sep. 12.

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