NFL teams must decide a year in advance whether or not they want to exercise a fifth-year contract option on a former first-round pick. So while Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore will be beginning his fourth pro season this summer, the team has already decided to keep him around for a fifth season, and will formalize that decision in May - at a hefty price.
Bills will be picking up Stephon Gilmore's fifth-year option this May. Doug Whaley tells me. No surprise.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) March 24, 2015
When teams make these decisions, they do so knowing that the player's fifth-year salary will be equal to that year's transition tag number. In committing to Gilmore for the 2016 season, then, the Bills are also committing $11.082 million to him, and it's fully guaranteed.
The arrival of Rex Ryan in Buffalo has changed expectations for the team and many of its players, but perhaps none more so than the 24-year-old Gilmore, who has served as the Bills' top cornerback since he was picked No. 10 overall in 2012. Ryan has spoken glowingly of Gilmore since his arrival, and given his reputation not only as a defensive mind, but in working with elite cornerbacks, it's possible that Gilmore will be expected to improve more than any other Bill this season by fans.
Gilmore is expected to head up a Bills defensive backfield that will also start Leodis McKelvin at cornerback, Aaron Williams and Duke Williams at safety, and feature Nickell Robey and Corey Graham in prominent roles, as well.