New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore was absent from the Patriots’ first minicamp practice Monday, and according to a source is expected to sit out as he seeks a new contract. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Five players missed the Patriots’ opening minicamp practice Monday, and one absence stood out from all the rest.

Star cornerback Stephon Gilmore skipped the mandatory practice and, a source told the Boston Herald, will sit out the rest of minicamp as he seeks a new contract. Gilmore, 30, is entering the final year of his deal with a $7 million base salary. That salary would pay him roughly half what other elite cornerbacks are scheduled to make around the NFL.

Last summer, the Patriots agreed to move $4.5 million of Gilmore’s 2021 salary up after the cornerback market reset with long-term deals for Miami’s Byron Jones and Rams star Jalen Ramsey. At that time, Gilmore was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He finished the 2020 season with one interception, three pass breakups and 37 tackles over 11 games.

Gilmore also partially tore his quad in a mid-December loss at Miami and was placed on injured reserve. He continues to rehab the injury. His current cap hit is $16.265 million, highest in the NFL among corners, according to Over the Cap. The Patriots could lower his current cap hit by reaching an extension. Until then, Gilmore could be subject to up to $93,000 in fines for skipping minicamp.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick dodged questions about Gilmore’s expected attendance before practice Monday.

“Had a little weather here, we’re working through some travel arrangements,” Belichick said. “We’ll see what the full level of participation is here today and for this week. I’m sure we’ll have a pretty full roster.”

Asked specifically about Gilmore, Belichick again sidestepped: “Like I said we were kind of scrambling to get things going this morning, so I didn’t really have a chance to see everyone myself.”

Gilmore originally signed a 5-year, $65 million contract in March 2017. In New England, Gilmore’s made three Pro Bowls, earned two All-Pro nods and won a Super Bowl.

The other four players who missed practice Monday were edge defenders Chase Winovich and Rashod Berry, linebacker Terez Hall and defensive lineman Byron Cowart.

AS THE PATRIOTS work way through OTAs and minicamp this offseason, there is one thing Bill Belichick can confirm: It’s good to have linebacker Dont’a Hightower back.

“It’s good to have all the players that we have,” Belichick said. “Yeah, it’s good to see High. High’s worked right in very quickly. He’s obviously a smart player with a lot of experience and has a lot of leadership for us on the team.”

Hightower spotted on the field Thursday during the Patriots OTA sessions last week, which was the first time that Hightower was seen on a Patriot uniform since the 2019 season after the veteran linebacker opted out of the 2020 season amid COVID-19 concerns.

Hightower returns to the Patriots in 2021 as part of a revamped linebacker group. In addition to Hightower, the Patriots will also be getting Kyle Van Noy back in the mix after a season with the Miami Dolphins. That’s along with free agent acquisitions like Matt Judon and Raekwon McMillan.


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