The 2017 NFL season has begun! The long path to the start of the season in underway! Rejoice!
As reported this morning, the Pats have signed Stephon Gilmore and re-signed Duron Harmon in the opening salvo of the free agency period. Both moves are surprising, not that being surprised should be surprising during this time of year.
As @MikeGarafolo said, Patriots agree with safety Duron Harmon to return on 4-year deal with max value of $20 million.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 9, 2017
I assumed Harmon was gone. The Pats have paid their other two top safeties, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, so I assumed Harmon would be the third safety casualty. Instead, the ponied up four years, $20 million for Harmon, which tells us how valuable the view that role in their defense now. Harmon usually plays only about half the snaps, but offers important flexibility to the defense. More remarkable is that they retained him despite him being somewhat of a specialist in the deep part of the field. We’ve never really even seen him play near the line of scrimmage, much less in man coverage.
Still, for a defense that saw what it was like to get beat over and over just a few short years ago, Harmon brings a level of continuity on the back end that is vital. Especially because it looks like there’s going to be some turnover at cornerback.
Patriots are giving former Bills CB Stephon Gilmore a five-year, $65 million deal that includes $40 million guaranteed, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
This one blows my mind. We’ll probably need to wait and see what happens with Malcolm Butler, but for a team that has never really splurged on free agents, much less cornerbacks, the Pats just blew any preconceived notions out of the water. Yes, they have the cap space, but I just can’t believe they’d make this kind of investment in an external player with so many internal players still dangling in the wind.