FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Gilmore resolution?: When Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore told longtime NFL reporter Josina Anderson that he isn’t pushing for a trade, but “I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out,” it naturally sparks one of the most important questions facing the team entering training camp.
Can they, in Gilmore’s words, “find common ground and get it situated”?
Based on how the team has traditionally handled similar situations in the past, and with the Patriots’ 2022 salary-cap standing in mind, the answer might come down to Gilmore’s expectations.
In 2018, the Patriots added $4.3 million in incentives to tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s contract, the second year in a row they did so. They also added $5 million in incentives to quarterback Tom Brady‘s contract in 2018, giving him a chance to get closer to the market.
Precedent can be important for teams in negotiations, and with that in mind, adding easily-earned incentives to Gilmore’s contract would fall most closely in line with the Patriots’ approach of finding common ground.
But if Gilmore is shooting for more, he could point to what the team did with Richard Seymour in 2006. Seymour had one year remaining on his six-year rookie contract, but after holding his ground in negotiations, landed a four-year, $30 million contract that would have been similar to what he might have received on the open market.
That situation was more of an outlier in the coach Bill Belichick era, although Gilmore’s agent, Jason Chayut, is certainly familiar with it because he was the agent for wide receiver Deion Branch’s contract dispute with the team that led to a trade later that year.
Part of what the current-day Patriots would be wrestling with regarding a possible extension for Gilmore — in addition to his age (31) and the fact he’s coming off a torn quad — is their position with the 2022 salary cap. They currently have $201.7 million in total commitments, according to Patriots cap wizard Miguel Benzan, and the ceiling for next year’s cap is $208 million.
While that number factors in that everyone currently under contract for 2022 will be on the team (which is unlikely), it’s still close enough to the cap ceiling that the Patriots might want to be judicious with how much more they commit financially for next season.
2. Trade request: After the agent for 2019 Patriots first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry formally requested a trade almost two weeks ago, it highlighted how Harry’s future with the team is uncertain. The trade request also had me thinking of past “change-of-scenery” deals in the Belichick era, when the Patriots gave up a once-highly-touted player in exchange for a similar player. The 2006 deal in which wide receiver/returner Bethel Johnson (2003 second-rounder) was shipped to the Saints for defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan (2003 first-rounder) was one that came to mind, and if the Patriots ultimately trade Harry, that’s the type of deal I could envision — and it might be more likely to come later in the preseason.
3. Cam, QBs in early: While the majority of Patriots players report for training camp July 27, Cam Newton and his fellow quarterbacks are set to arrive Thursday, as Newton himself noted in his interview with ESPN Radio’s “KJZ” show. So this is their last football-free weekend, and the coaches’ last, until what they hope will be mid-February. Meanwhile, teams are also allowed to bring in their entire rookie class seven days before the veteran reporting date, so quarterback Mac Jones, defensive tackle Christian Barmore, defensive end Ronnie Perkins and Co., will also get a head start. That increases some urgency to finalize contracts for Barmore and Perkins, the team’s lone unsigned draft picks.
Cam Newton discusses what’s motivating him heading into his second season with the Patriots, plus his relationship with rookie QB Mac Jones.
4. Judge on BB: Former Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge, who is set to enter his second season as the New York Giants‘ coach, was a guest on “The Flying Coach” podcast hosted by Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and Peter Schrager of NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” program and Fox Sports. Judge peeled back the curtain on what it was like to work under Belichick — from feeling his job being threatened in a full-squad meeting, sharing his first meeting with him, to relaying how when he first became special teams coordinator, Belichick also assigned him to a leading role in the rookie development program. Judge said that experience helped give him a big-picture feel for team culture, setting the stage for him to elevate to his current position.
5. Moton deal stings: The Panthers’ four-year, $72 million extension with right tackle Taylor Moton, which represented the only extension for a franchise-tagged player prior to last Thursday’s deadline, has a notable Patriots twist to it. The Panthers selected Moton with the second-round pick (No. 64) they received from New England in exchange for veteran Kony Ealy and a third-round pick (No. 72). Ealy never made it out of training camp that year, and the Patriots traded down from No. 72 after multiple players that might have looked good in New England colors (e.g. Moton, Alvin Kamara, Cooper Kupp, Dan Feeney) went off the board between picks 64 though 71.
6. Checking in: Three-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Richard Seymour was vacationing in the area earlier this week, visiting two of his aunts who live in Boston, and expanded his itinerary with a stop at Gillette Stadium to visit team owner Robert Kraft and others. It was a reminder that his connection to the organization remains strong, and the days of contractual battles and being traded to the Raiders (in 2009) are in the rear-view mirror.
7. Adams reports early: Count defensive tackle Montravius Adams in the category of checking into training camp early. The 2017 third-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers, out of Auburn, is hoping a fresh start in New England helps him meet draft-slot expectations, and he’s all-in on embracing the team’s culture.
8. Kraft’s gesture: ESPN’s documentary “Born To Play” chronicled a season with the Boston Renegades women’s tackle football team, and the Renegades have had more success since it was released in July 2020. They play for their third straight national championship July 24 in Canton, Ohio, and they’re traveling in style — on the Patriots’ team plane. It’s a nice gesture by Kraft and of one championship organization helping another.
9. They said it: “If there’s some sort of a Hall of Fame for what he’s done, he needs to be in it. Because he’s a silent hero. He really is.” — Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Patriots guard John Hannah (1973-85), speaking on recently-retired longtime Patriots assistant Ernie Adams, on the “Pats from the Past” podcast. Another nugget from Hannah in the podcast with co-hosts Matt Smith and Bryan Morry: The Raiders’ Howie Long and the Jets’ Joe Klecko (“had great leverage, never quit”) were cited as the two best all-around defensive linemen he faced.
10. Did You Know: The Patriots have finished in the top 10 for fewest points allowed in each of the past nine seasons, and if they accomplish the feat in 2021, they will match the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2005) as the last team to do so in 10 straight seasons. The Patriots ranked seventh last season.