One of the big decisions of the offseason for the Buffalo Bills has been made.
After mulling over their options over the last two months, Bills head coach Sean McDermott told 7ABC on Wednesday morning that the team will not be using the franchise tag on cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore, unless re-signed by March 9 at 4:00 pm, will become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team.
Gilmore, 26, has spent the past five seasons with the Bills after being their first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He's started every single game he's been healthy for and played 66 out of a possible 80 games. Over five seasons, Gilmore has 198 tackles and 14 interceptions -- including bringing in a career-high five interceptions in 2016.
The cornerback has said he does not want to receive the franchise tag and is likely to receive one of the biggest free agent contracts on the open market. The Bills will be left at cornerback with Ronald Darby, a former second-round pick that has started each of the last two seasons, and Kevon Seymour, a 2016 sixth-round selection, if Gilmore elects to sign elsewhere.
The Bills have until the start of the new league year on March 9 to re-sign him.
Joe B's Take
This is a move that most saw coming. Stephon Gilmore is a really good player and wants to be paid like a great one. The Bills have held a high opinion of him but weren't ready to dole out the type of money he may seek -- and get -- on the open market come March 9.
Now that a franchise tag is no longer an option, this increases the odds that the Bills will be sporting a brand new starter at the cornerback position. The Bills are extremely strapped against the salary cap, considering how many players they still need to sign to the roster to get to 90 players.
Issuing Gilmore the franchise tag would have put a huge dent into the limited room they already have, as would signing him to a lucrative contract extension.
The only way a Gilmore deal can get done and make sense, at least in my eyes, is if the Bills were ready to part ways with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. It does not seem that they are willing to make that decision just yet, which means that forces their hand with Gilmore.
According to ESPN, the Bills -- as it is -- have only about $18.9 million in cap room now that the new figure has been set for the upcoming season.
There's also the matter of Gilmore, and whether or not he's a schematic fit in Sean McDermott's scheme. McDermott has usually run zone-based defenses, and as a man-to-man cover corner, that likely drives Gilmore's value down more in-house.
Really, unless the Bills walk away from Tyrod Taylor, I think it's quite likely Stephon Gilmore has played his last downs as a Buffalo Bill for more reasons than just the money.