On the outside looking in, you’d have to imagine this regime of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia are willing to do whatever it takes to make a push for the playoffs—and keep their offices in Allen Park. After dropping Sunday’s matchup to the Indianapolis Colts in convincing fashion, you’d have to imagine the duo are taking stock while in this precarious spot they’ve found themselves in.
The NFL’s trade deadline is Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. ET, and if you hold your ear to the ground, you’ll hear the rumblings.
Last week, rumors began circulating regarding the 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots. ESPN’s Mike Reiss doesn’t get the sense that the Patriots have been actively shopping the star cornerback in recent weeks—and a knee injury that kept him out of Week 8’s matchup versus the Buffalo Bills certainly complicates things—but he doesn’t think that means Bill Belichick would be adverse to shipping out their best tradeable asset:
“If a team was willing to part with a high draft pick (e.g. first two rounds),” says Reiss, “my sense is that would be something coach Bill Belichick would consider acting on, knowing he has a possible up-and-coming star in J.C. Jackson already in house.”
Reiss goes on to say he could absolutely see the Patriots standing pat if they don’t get a worthwhile offer and choosing to figure out a solution to Gilmore’s contract—which expires after the 2021 season. Gilmore is scheduled to make just $7 million in base salary in 2021, an absolute bargain for the level of player he is at this point in his career, and one you can’t imagine him playing at considering he’ll be 31 at the beginning of next season.
What seemingly fanned the flames to these rumors was the news of Gilmore putting his Foxborough home up for sale last week. Sure, he could be sending a message to Patriots brass now that he’s due for a pay bump at the end of this season, or he could just be in the market for a new home. Regardless of the outcome, as Reiss points out in the same article, Tuesday’s trade deadline is certainly a checkpoint for both the Patriots and Gilmore to clear.
So why should the Lions throw their hat in the ring to acquire an aging cornerback who will want a new contract at season’s end—and likely cost them at least a second-round pick in the process? Didn’t we just watch this movie play itself out with Darius Slay’s departure this past offseason?
Detroit’s defense really needs help at the top of the depth chart at cornerback. When Detroit decided to deal the cornerstone of their secondary away, they tried to plug that hole in their boat with Desmond Trufant. Through just two games in an injury-plagued season, Trufant hasn’t been the replacement at CB1 the team had hoped he’d be, and chances are once he returns from the hamstring injury that’s kept him on the shelf the past few weeks he still won’t be that guy.
Gilmore’s level of play this season hasn’t been quite up to snuff when he was an All Pro and AP Defensive Player of the Year a year ago. According to Reiss, opponents are completing 56 percent of their passes against Gilmore when he’s the nearest defender, up from last year’s incredible mark of just 47 percent allowed. Also, opponents are chunking it up on Gilmore, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt this season in comparison to just 5.5 yards per attempt in 2019.
Those numbers seem a bit out of context considering the Patriots defense has been pretty bad at both stopping the run and the pass as a whole: New England’s ranked 25th overall in defensive DVOA through seven weeks of the season and Gilmore isn’t to blame for the Patriots run defense giving up 4.6 yards per carry.
Many fans are at their wits’ end with Patricia and Quinn, but if the two do manage to stick around for another year, would you rather have a player like Gilmore for a playoff push this season or a second-round pick like Teez Tabor or Jahlani Tavai? How about another running back the team will move on from because they added a 35-year-old running back a week before the season started?
If the Lions went out and added Gilmore, would that instantly make them playoff contenders? Probably not. But what’s clear is this defense’s need for a top cornerback. Jeff Okudah isn’t ready, and acquiring someone like Gilmore takes the pressure off the rookie to match up with other team’s top skill players week in and week out. And while Amani Oruwariye has flashed in spots, it’s clear he isn’t quite ready to be the defense’s No. 1 corner either. Gilmore at the top pushes everyone else down and puts them in better positions to be successful.
But what if Quinn pulls the trigger on a deal and things go sideways? What if the Lions end up 5-11 or 6-10 and ownership pulls the plug on the Boston Boys after this season? The next regime could be out a second round draft pick and a sixth round pick—the Everson Griffen deal—in next year’s draft if Quinn decides to double down and become a buyer the deadline.
If you’re worried about a potential rebuild if this doesn’t work out, look past a couple of draft picks: this is much, much more complicated and complex than a couple of draft picks getting lost in the shuffle. This roster has been completely overhauled to fit Quinn and Patricia’s vision and it’s going to take more than one draft for a new regime to turn things around in Detroit.
And then there’s the connection back east. Not only has Quinn targeted former Patriots in free agency like Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins, but he’s also been incredibly active trade partners with Belichick and the Patriots; since March of 2016, Quinn has made eight trades with the Patriots. And of course, Patricia has familiarity with Gilmore, coaching him in Gilmore’s first season with New England in 2017, so you figure he’d be an instant fit to what Patricia wants to do on defense with his corners.
For a regime looking to keep playoff hopes alive, and their jobs intact, making a play for Gilmore is exactly what this team needs to do before Tuesday’s trade deadline.