Stephon Gilmore honed his skills as a shutdown cornerback over the last five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, but the 2012 first-round pick reportedly opted for a change of scenery Thursday when he signed with the New England Patriots.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, it's the most guaranteed money the Patriots have ever given a defensive player.
Gilmore recorded a career-high five interceptions during the 2016 season, but he didn't assume shutdown form until after the midway point of what amounted to another disappointing campaign for the Bills.
According to USA Today's Robert Quinn, Gilmore "allowed 11 receptions on 22 targets for just 90 yards while intercepting three passes and breaking up another four" during a stretch that saw him face Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Antonio Brown and Terrelle Pryor.
"I feel like I got better as the season went along, and that’s what you want to do," Gilmore said, per the Buffalo News' Jay Skurski. "You want to keep getting better and better, and keep peaking. … I've been in the league five years, started every year, so I've done proved myself a lot."
|Stephon Gilmore's Stats By Season|
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With the Patriots, Gilmore will attempt to use his late-season success as a springboard to more prosperity in 2017.
Based on the shutdown chops he flashed during his first four years in the league before a streaky 2016 season, that shouldn't be a problem for the physical press corner who thrives when he's locked in a fierce battle on the outside.
"That's the way I know I like to do it—be on an island, put my hands on guys and make plays," he told Pro Football Focus last August.
Gilmore's aggressive style can make him susceptible to big plays from time to time, but he should continue to evolve into a true force along the boundary based on the impressive way he challenged receivers throughout his time in Buffalo.