Stephon Gilmore had the best season of his career in 2015 and he knows it.
Gilmore spoke with Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News during locker room cleanout this week and spoke highly of his 2015 season.
“I know I’m an elite corner,” Gilmore said. “I mean, the film don’t lie.”
It's hard to argue with Gilmore's claims. In 12 games with the Buffalo Bills this season, Gilmore had 36 total tackles, three interceptions and 21 passes defensed. Despite missing four games, Gilmore's 21 passes defensed were good enough for 11th in the league this season per NFL.com.
In 2015, Gilmore showed that he can play in man or zone coverage. He was especially strong in man-to-man coverage this season, something that Rex Ryan covets in a cornerback. His strong play didn't go unnoticed this season. Gilmore finished the 2015 season as Pro Football Focus' 10th best cornerback.
Quality cornerbacks are hard to find, let alone some of the best in the league. Buffalo was lucky enough to have two cornerbacks in PFF's top 10 this season. It's a combination that Bills fans should hope to see together for many years to come.
Gilmore had his fifth-year option picked up by the Bills back in April of 2015. Now, Gilmore is under contract for $11,082,000 in 2016. Although Gilmore is under contract next season, it may be in Buffalo's best interests to extend the cornerback this offseason. The Bills will obviously prioritize re-signing Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito first as both are key linemen who can hit free agency in March, but Buffalo should focus on Gilmore after addressing the left side of their offensive line. The (multi) million dollar question now becomes, how much will Gilmore get in his next deal? The best way to figure this out is to look at how some cornerbacks were paid recently.
A good starting point may Byron Maxwell's contract. Maxwell signed a six-year, $63 million contract with the Eagles last offseason with $25 million guaranteed. Philadelphia was able to keep Maxwell's cap hit under $10 million in his first two seasons and keep his cap hit from reaching more than $11.2 million per Spotrac.
Realistically, Buffalo could offer Gilmore a six-year deal in the $65-68 million range, with close to $28-30 million guaranteed. It's a deal that would work out well for both parties. The long-term deal would pay Gilmore handsomely for his services, including a large guarantee. The Bills would have a lockdown No. 1 cornerback signed long-term and could adjust his contract to keep his cap hit low for the first two to three seasons of the deal. Adjusting Gilmore's cap hit, currently the seventh highest in the league among cornerbacks in 2016, would help Buffalo free up some money to add some mid-level free agents this offseason.
Gilmore has performed at a high level during his tenure in Buffalo, despite playing under various defensive coordinators in his career. Rather than wait another season and see Gilmore's asking price rise, the Bills should lockdown Gilmore this offseason the way Gilmore locks down opposing wide receivers.