Devin McCourty praises Stephon Gilmore amid contract dispute: ‘(He) makes us a better defense’

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New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty is one of the few players who has gotten a massive second contract from Bill Belichick. It’s just something the Patriots coach and general manager has avoided, whether he’s drafted and developed a player or he’s signed a star in free agency and made them worth even more money.

McCourty, the Patriots’ first-round pick in 2010, must know just how hard it is to get that second contract. Stephon Gilmore is entrenched in that challenging process. He signed a five-year, $65 million deal with the Patriots in 2017, but the terms of the deal have grown team-friendly, and he wants to earn what he’s worth. That’s what led to a holdout in minicamp.

“All that stuff usually gets resolved,” McCourty said of Gilmore, who reported for training camp on Tuesday. “And whenever a player’s contract comes up, it’s between kind of between the player and the team, so that all will be figured out. It was good seeing my guy again.”

There’s no doubt McCourty appreciates Gilmore’s presence on the field. The cornerback started training camp on the physically unable to perform list after ending his 2020 season with a thigh injury. But the Patriots defense will look forward to getting him back in the mix, which may take good health — and perhaps a raise.

“And like I’ve always said, he’s one of the best corners in this league,” McCourty said on a videoconference call Tuesday. “He’s been the best guy for the last couple of years, obviously defensive MVP, and he’s really made this defense operate at a different level when he’s out there. So anytime I get an opportunity to be out there on the field with him, gives us a better chance to win, makes us a better defense. So it is great having you here in the locker room and on this team.”

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