Stephon Gilmore Just Got PAID

Al Bello. Getty Images.

Mr. Kraft and Bill Belichick, just casually handing out a 50% raise to a guy with two years left on his deal. 

So, you were saying about this organization being cheap, everybody? Remember saying that, Dion Lewis?

Or any of another 100 million people?

Not only do they give Stephon Gilmore this nice little kiss in the mail at a time when he has no leverage other than to hold out, thanks to the bizarro nonlinear partial differential equations math that is the NFL salary structure, they do so while giving themselves more cap space and making it easier to sign the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year through 2022 and beyond:

Making use of the millions of square feet of cap room they've freed up since the middle of summer when they were sitting at about $550,000, second lowest in the league. 

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. This is an organization that will pay. They just will not overpay. What do Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork all have in common? At one time or another, they were all the highest paid player at their position in NFL history. And they deserved to be. When the time is right and you've earned it, they will back up the Brinks truck filled with Kraftbucks to your driveway. 

But it works the other way, too. Like it or not, they do the cold, hard calculus of assigning a dollar value to every player that comes across their radar. And it's based entirely on what they decide your contributions will be. It's not about sentiment or gratitude or loyalty or any such emotional component. It's a projection of what you are worth, period. Which is why, for instance, Malcolm Butler was able to command way more from Tennessee than the Pats were willing to give. Thanks for the memories, Malcolm Go, but you're not a $61 million dollar cornerback. Stephon Gilmore is. Security will see you out. 

It can be hard at times, losing a guy with such a permanent place in our hearts like that. But it's how Belichick has been doing it since he inherited a financial mess in 2000 caused by Bobby Grier putting bonus money in plastic Jack-o-Lanterns on his front porch and telling the kids dressed like agents and mediocre players to help themselves. That approach built this Dynasty and sticking to it has sustained it. Even if it meant alienating Brady and Gronk and dozens of lesser players. 

As far as Gilmore, nobody deserves it more. He is as lockdown a lockdown corner as this franchise has ever seen. And I'm including Hall of Famers like Darrelle Revis, Ty Law and (showing my age) Michael Haynes. His ability to matchup and neutralize opposing teams' best wideout (something even Revis was rarely asked to do; the 2014 team preferred assigning him to the WR2 and doubling the WR1) is the spark that causes the combustion of this defense's engine.

Gilmore has the rare traits that allow him to match up against any body type. The situational awareness to know what to look for and bait QBs. And the speed to take away backside slants in 3X1 and 4X1 formations that used to kill this defense in the dark days from 2009-12 and were still plaguing them before Gilmore arrived. 

So this is great news. One of the best developments for this team in 2020. So what the hell, while I'm celebrating, let's look back at what I was saying a month into Gilmore's Patriots career. I want to own this. Because like Rick Pitino says, when you admit your mistakes, they become part of your past. When you don't, they become part of your future. And he's all about accountability. From October 3, 2017:

Sweet Jesus, [is the Patriots defense] awful. And Stephon Gilmore is more lost than he looked watching it live.

Those … Tweets above barely tell the story. There are plenty more where those came from. The most valued free agent  of the Bradichick Era played Sunday like he’d never been to a Patriots practice before. Worse. Like he’s not really clear on the whole concept of cornerbacking and doesn’t know who to ask because nobody around speaks his language. I’m convinced you could pull me up on stage at a production of The Sound of Music and tell me to play one of the Von Trapp kids, and I could do a fake my way through the part of Leisl better than Gilmore did approximating a Patriots defensive back Sunday. …

Gilmore is blowing so many coverages so badly that the numbers can’t account for it. He’s so far away from the scene of the crime that, statistically speaking, he stops being a suspect. You can’t convince me that all of a sudden everyone else in the secondary forgot the system they’ve all won two Super Bowls playing in.

Ouch. Harsh words. And aside from maybe when I abandoned all hope during the 2004 ALCS, I don't think I've ever been happier in my life to be so completely wrong. Congrats to Gilly Lock on his richly deserved riches. My cornerback.