When the Buffalo Bills begin organized team activities at One Bills Drive on Monday, one of their best players will not be in attendance: cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore does not plan on reporting to the voluntary team workouts this week, a source told The News.
The team’s No. 1 corner is entering the final year of his rookie contract. His reps and the Bills are believed to still be working on a long-term contract extension.
After another off-season of cornerbacks making bank, one can see why Gilmore would train away right now. The number continues to rise at a premium position in today’s NFL.
Josh Norman inked a five-year, $75 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Janoris Jenkins signed a five-year, $62.5 million pact with the New York Giants. And a year ago, Darrelle Revis signed with the New York Jets at five years, $70 million. While the team did exercise the fifth-year option on Gilmore’s rookie deal — at $11 million — he’s scheduled to be a free agent next spring.
When asked in March if he wants to be in Buffalo long term or if he’d like to hit the open market to test his worth, Gilmore indicated he’d like to stay... at the right price.
“I definitely would as long as its fair,” Gilmore said then. “I love Buffalo. They gave me my first opportunity to play in the National Football League. I think we have a lot of great talent, a lot of guys in the locker room that I love like my little brothers. But right now, it’s a business. It’s not personal. You believe in yourself and see if you can meet.”
This shouldn’t be considered a “holdout” considering OTA’s are voluntary, though the source said Gilmore will continue to train in Charlotte and Miami as the team hits the field this week. Buffalo's scheduled OTA's are May 23, May 24, May 26 this week, May 31, June 1 and June 3 next week, and then June 6-9. Mandatory minicamp is slated for June 14-16.
As Gilmore broke down in detail, cornerbacks in Rex Ryan's defense are asked to handle wide receivers on an island. As he also explained, that was not the case for Norman in the Carolina Panthers’ defense. Thus, it’s logical to see Gilmore seeking a contract — at least — in Norman’s ballpark.
Before tearing his labrum in a Dec. 6 win over the Houston Texans, Gilmore was in the midst of a career season. Through 12 games, he totaled 36 solo tackles, 18 passes defensed and three interceptions, mostly shutting down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall. In a 14-13 win at Tennessee, Gilmore said he knew every single route his man would run before the snap. One former All-Pro, Darren Woodson, even sees signs of Deion Sanders in Gilmore's game.
Since being selected 10th overall in the 2012 draft, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who'll turn 26 in September has evolved into a thinking man's cornerback with a projector screen at home to watch film while also helping rookie Ronald Darby develop quickly last year.
If there is any hesitation on Buffalo’s part in making a Norman-like investment it'd be that Gilmore has played in 16 games only once in his four seasons. Still, General Manager Doug Whaley has stated that re-signing Gilmore long term is a priority this off-season. In Ryan's defense, corners rarely get help so the coach can get creative with his pressure and simulated pressure up front.
And after locking up left tackle Cordy Glenn to a five-year, $65 million deal, Gilmore would seem to be next in line. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is also entering a contract year.
What's the magic number? Well, 10 cornerbacks in the NFL are currently making at least $10 million per season with three making at least $14 million per year — Seattle's Richard Sherman, Arizona's Patrick Peterson and Revis.
One thing’s for sure: Gilmore "definitely" puts himself in an elite class of corners.
Now, it's Buffalo's move.
“I know who I am and nobody can tell me I’m not," Gilmore said in March. "If you really watch the film, really study the film and not go off hype and people who talk more than what I do, just go off the film and it’ll show you that.”