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NFL Draft

Stephon Gilmore’s Contract Unhappiness Is Justified

  • The Draft Network
  • June 30, 2021
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Recently, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore retweeted a picture of the top 10 highest-paid defensive backs in the NFL. On this list, you will see several deserving names like Xavien Howard, Marlon Humphrey, and Byron Jones. However, there are a couple of names that surprisingly made this list as well—most notably, Trae Waynes, James Bradberry, and William Jackson III. To some degree, all of those players have earned the right to be on that list, but when you consider the level that Gilmore has played at recently, it is criminal that he isn’t on it. 

Outside of his reputation for being one of the best man-coverage players in the NFL, Gilmore also became the first cornerback since 2009 to be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (in 2019). Having said that, he is scheduled to make a mere $7 million this year. For the sake of context, Waynes, who is ninth on that aforementioned list, is scheduled to make $14 million this season.

Gilmore would have made the top-paid list in 2020, but that’s because the Patriots moved $5 million of his 2021 salary to 2020 to compensate for the grossly underpaid contract. However, the $7 million he is scheduled to make in 2021 is yet again grossly under market value for a player who has been in the top tier at his position for a while now. However, his current team operates to the beat of their own drum. After all, we ARE talking about the Patriots… the very team that convinced arguably the greatest quarterback of all time to take several under-market contracts for the sake of team building. As a result, Gilmore may have to go to another team in order to be fairly compensated for his services.

However, what's most concerning is the public backlash Gilmore has received. Some have called him entitled and referenced fulfilling a contract that he himself signed without coercion. Understand that a contract should be honored by both the player and organization. However, as we know, oftentimes teams will flat-out cut a player who hasn’t played up to the standard of the dollar amount on an active contract, so players should not be admonished for feeling underpaid and wanting a bump in compensation. Furthermore, football is a very violent game. Players put their bodies and long-term health on the line. The shelf life of a player isn’t very long. As a result, every player deserves to be compensated fairly.

Some have suggested that Gilmore is “being spoiled,” that $7 million is a lot of money, and that he should take less for the good of the team “just like Tom Brady did.” There's a reason that players NEVER comment on or get involved in other players' contracts. You don’t know the totality of their family situation, so it's best to avoid the conversation altogether. However, regardless of profession, every person should have the desire to reach the apex of their respective profession. It likely requires hard work, sacrifice, and unrivaled dedication. When you’ve ascended to be considered one of the best in your field, it's almost always reflected in your compensation. Just because athletes are also entertainers to some degree, they should not be exempt from wanting to be compensated fairly for their services.

It is not the job of the player to worry about the salary cap ramifications of their contracts. Teams often have a Director of Football Administration and salary cap analyst whose job is to specifically see how every contract fits within the parameters of the salary cap. It is simply the job of the player to perform at a high enough level to position themselves to earn what they rightfully deserve.

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