Patriots: Is Stephon Gilmore a sensible trade chip for Julio Jones?
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots are all too familiar with trading for an Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, though these current rumors have an entirely different feel to them.
Fans will recall the Patriots trading a second-round pick to Atlanta for Mohamed Sanu ahead of the 2019 deadline. The deal proved to be a failure of epic proportions, as he managed just 26 catches for 207 yards across eight games before he was released the following offseason.
Fast forward to the present and the Patriots are being repeatedly linked with Julio Jones, who confirmed the end of his Falcons tenure on national television this week, and who, um, feels like a better fit than Sanu.
It seems like New England is one of the frontrunners to land Jones, and a trade coming to fruition will likely hinge on which assets they’re willing to give up.
With that in mind, Stephon Gilmore has been speculated as a potential trade chip given that his contract situation still hasn’t been resolved.
While the perennial Pro Bowler is undoubtedly the Patriots’ most compelling trade asset, would unloading him be a smart decision?
Is Stephon Gilmore a realistic Patriots trade chip for Julio Jones?
There’s a lot of tentacles attached to this, so here us out.
On one hand, you could argue that the Falcons need a cornerback, but their window to win a championship isn’t open.
Given that Gilmore, who’s entering his age-31 season, is a win-now player, fans should be hoping Atlanta thinks it has one last run with Matt Ryan as their quarterback. If that’s the case, the idea of acquiring Gilmore to bolster their secondary might resonate with them.
You might be thinking…why not just extend Gilmore rather than absorb Jones’ enormous contract? After all, the three-year, $66 million extension the wideout signed before the 2019 season is about to kick in and Gilmore has proven capable of carrying this defense on his shoulders in the past.
Those are valid arguments, and while we understand Patriots fans who are reluctant to trade Gilmore, you could also argue that New England could replace him pretty easily: they could either sign JC Jackson to an extension and/or sign free agent Richard Sherman.
Even the financially-intuitive Patriots likely won’t be able to find a way to extend Jackson, sign Sherman and inherit Jones’ mammoth contract.
Either way, losing Gilmore only to acquire Sherman, who’s still elite in coverage despite his age, and Jones would be such a coup that rival fans will be writing stern letters to the league office begging the Patriots to be investigated for collusion.
Keep in mind that Jackson is locked up through 2021 after he signed his second-round tender as a restricted free agent earlier this offseason. That means the Pats’ hypothetical cornerback room would consist of Sherman, Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills, which is more than serviceable.
So, while fans can definitely make sense out of both sides — keeping or trading Gilmore — the Patriots’ alternative options absolutely make him a sensible trade chip.