NFL trade talks are seemingly heating up like the real estate market heading toward the Nov. 3 deadline.
But while the sale of houses these days is a crazy, bidding-frenzy sellers’ market, the competitive prices in pro football personnel transactions don’t seem quite as high.
Pass rushers like Yannick Ngakoue, Everson Griffen and Carlos Dunlap have already been moved and gone for reasonable or even cheap compensation.
So, should the 2-4 Patriots trade reigning Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore?
Well, that depends.
Gilmore seemingly is ready to move on, at least based on the fact that his house in Foxborough is on the market. Of course since he’s asking for nearly $200,000 over the last assessed value and more than $100,000 above the latest optimistic Zillow Zestimate, it’s not like he’s looking to just unload the beautiful 5,100-square-foot home.
Previous reports that the Patriots took phone calls from other teams this offseason regarding Gilmore before giving the cornerback a $5 million bump in compensation for this season. So, there was at least a willingness to listen to offers on a guy who had just been anointed the best defensive player in football.
Now, with the 2020 season in New England on the brink of disaster and the future of the team and its relationship with the star player rather uncertain, it’s no surprise trade rumors have resurfaced.
But even if the Patriots are perceived “sellers” heading toward the trade deadline, that doesn’t mean the team should just take whatever is offered on the open market at this point. Gilmore wants top dollar for his home and the Patriots should be looking for similar top trade compensation for the top cornerback.
No one would argue that Gilmore is having as elite a season as he did a year ago. The eyeball test says he’s not playing as well. His interceptions are down. His penalties are up. All that admittedly against far more challenging competition and with far less impressive talent around him on the New England defense.
Still, the 30-year-old cornerback playing out the fourth year of the five-year, $65 million contract he signed as a free agent back in 2017 remains one of the better pass defenders in the game.
Whether his play has taken a step back or not, it doesn’t seem likely Gilmore is looking to play for the $7 million salary he’s currently on the books for in 2021. And the Patriots, a team in the midst of a post-Tom Brady sort of reboot/rebuild/reload/retool wouldn’t seem overly inclined to do a new big-money deal with Gilmore, especially with budding stud corner J.C.
Jackson waiting in the wings.
“He is still one of the best players in football. I don’t think his value is going down any way,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told The Greg Hill Show on WEEI. “Especially the position he plays, yes a good pass rush can help. But I don’t think anyone’s going to be like OK now because the Patriots defense doesn’t look great Gilmore is now not as valuable as he was.
"To me he is still very valuable, very good. I would say if he wants a new deal, which he probably will after this year, I think he wanted it before this year, but now definitely will after this year, it’s really a question of are the Patriots going to give it or is it going to be someone else? He’s going to get a deal. I don’t see him getting on the field (in 2021) for what is left on his contract. It’s just a matter of do the Patriots trade him and he gets a new deal with his new team or do the Patriots end up doing it?”
A trade seems like an obvious scenario. And if the right deal comes along, the Patriots should make it. Maybe that’s a second-round pick and a player. Maybe it’s multiple picks. Maybe shoot for the stars and a dream first-round pick. But it has to be suitable compensation.
If not, New England can and should hold onto one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL and wait until next spring’s free agency period and lead up to the 2021 NFL Draft to deal Gilmore. The value may be better at that point, when teams may have a better feel for their financial footing as well as more of finite view of how the entire COVID-19 situation is playing out.
It’s also worth noting that trading Gilmore, New England’s best overall player, could come at a high cost to the current team and season.
As ESPN analyst and former Patriots team leader Tedy Bruschi noted, it’s a message to the locker room that the white flag has been waived, that 2020 has run its course even with more than half a season yet to be played.
“Are you giving up on the season? Because if you are it goes against everything that you’re telling me every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday about doing your job, about winning the football game this week,” Bruschi said, offering a player’s perspective on OMF on WEEI. “Because if you take away our best player, that’s not about winning football games, that’s thinking down the road.”
That’s why it has to be the right deal for the right value.
Gilmore wants to sell his house but seemingly only at a price that on the high end of what the market may provide.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots should take the same approach to Gilmore. If trade compensation on the high end of market is in the offing, then snatch it up faster than a kid plunging his hand deep into a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups left unattended on a front porch on Halloween night.
If not, then wait the market out until the right deal comes along after the season.