The New England Patriots have split with star corner Stephon Gilmore after sides couldn't agree on a long-term contract.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Pats are releasing Gilmore, per sources informed of the situation.
ESPN first reported the news.
Gilmore later said his goodbye to New England.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick later said in a statement that the team and Gilmore had "mutually agreed to part ways today."
"I am grateful to Stephon Gilmore for his significant contributions to our team," Belichick said. "It was a privilege and pleasure to coach Steph, I appreciate him for the true professional and class act that he is and wish him all the best in the future. Following discussions over the long period of time, we mutually agreed to part ways today."
It's a stunning move by the Patriots, who apparently couldn't get anything for the corner in the trade market. Rapoport noted that health was a concern for teams considering trading for Gilmore. It's still possible that a trade could happen in the coming hours before the 4 p.m. ET transaction deadline -- but given his contract desires, it seems unlikely at this point.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has dealt with a quad injury that resulted in offseason surgery and landed him on the PUP list to open the season. Rapoport reported that the Pats were open to giving Gilmore a raise during the offseason but wanted to see him healthy first.
Gilmore sitting out of training camp and landing on the PUP list was characterized as a hold-in in an effort to get a new deal after the Pats bumped some of his 2021 pay into 2020 to appease his contract concerns last year.
Apparently, the tension hasn't dissipated.
Gilmore's contract called for just over $7 million in base salary this season after the Patriots moved up $4.5 million last year during training camp to appease the corner. That cash figure ranks 24th among all corners in 2021, per Over The Cap.
Despite not having the lockdown corner, who fit perfectly into the Pats system, New England has played well through four weeks, ranking fourth against the pass and fourth in yards per play allowed. Now the Pats will move on for good.
Even at 31, coming off injury, Gilmore should have no shortage of suitors should he prove healthy. Rapoport reported Gilmore is basically healthy -- underscoring that his absence was always more about the contract than injury.
Gilmore is a proven lockdown corner. Contenders like Kansas City, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, et al. should be lining up to ink him once he's officially released.
NFL teams always need corners. It's rare that a talent like Gilmore ever hits the open market. It's even rarer that it'd come ahead of Week 5.