Stephon Gilmore returns home.
The Patriots were able to trade the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, hours before his scheduled release date. They found takers in the Panthers, who announced via their official website that they traded a sixth-round pick in 2023 for Gilmore.
Gilmore is originally from Rock Hill, SC, and played in college in South Carolina, so this represents a homecoming for him. This is also in addition to Carolina’s corner room, which had been reduced a bit by Jaycee Horn’s injury.
Sporting News has trade notes for the Patriots and Panthers.
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There is a lot to love about this move for the Panthers. Carolina looked like a legitimate playoff team in the first month of the season. The Panthers are 3-1, but playing in a division that includes Tom Brady, they needed to add reinforcements in the secondary.
This became especially true when Jaycee Horn fell. Horn, the No.8 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, injured his foot in the Panthers’ 24-9 win in Week 3 over the Texans and is expected to miss two to three months. The Panthers have decent corner depth and acquired another former Top 10 pick CJ Henderson to help fill the void left by Horn.
That said, Gilmore is one of the best cornerbacks in the league when in good health, so he will no doubt provide an upgrade for Carolina’s high school when he returns. He’s still on the PUP roster and will stay there until Week 6, but if he’s ready to come back after that, he’ll provide a boost in front of Donte Jackson.
Gilmore was also not an expensive acquisition for the Panthers. They’re only giving up a sixth-round pick, and it’s not even in the next draft year. Thus, they keep most of their project capital. Additionally, the Panthers had the second-most NFL cap spaces at just over $ 19 million, per OverTheCap.com. So acquiring Gilmore’s contract, which carries a base salary of $ 7 million, won’t take even half of it.
The Panthers are in a good position to re-sign Gilmore if they so choose. They have the resources to extend it and give it a raise. He would be a perfect mentor for Horn as they are of similar size and styles of play and both have been to South Carolina.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers see Gilmore as a short-term or long-term addition. Either way, they’re not paying much to get a massive upgrade from a defense that already ranks third overall in yards and points allowed. It’s a victory for general manager Scott Fitterer and coach Matt Rhule.
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It’s hard to like this profession too much from the Patriots’ point of view. They don’t completely fail, because they were at least able to get some asset for Gilmore, but it’s still far from ideal.
Essentially, this trade was the Patriots choosing Jamie Collins over Stephon Gilmore. The team wanted Gilmore to restructure his contract to make room for Collins, but Gilmore didn’t want to do it without something going in his favor. The Patriots balked and decided to offload him.
Gilmore is 31 years old and comes from a quad injury. It deflated his league-wide worth and part of the reason the Patriots were only able to get a sixth-round pick in return for his services.
However, the Patriots could have approached it differently. They could have asked another player to restructure his contract to make room for Collins. It would have given them a chance to play Gilmore, evaluate him and see if he can still play at a high level. If that happened, they could have either kept him for 2022 (and beyond) or let him walk in free will to reclaim a compensatory selection in 2023.
The Patriots have a deep and talented secondary that includes JC Jackson, Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones and Shaun Wade, so maybe they didn’t have room for Gilmore. Still, they probably should have gotten more for him in a trade. After all, the The Dolphins traded wide receiver Jakeem Grant to the Bears for a sixth-round pick in 2023 on Tuesday, the same package Gilmore was traded for. He was much more successful in his career than Grant.
The only bright spot for New England is that they haven’t released Gilmore outright. We’ve seen the Patriots have success with sixth-round players before, so maybe they’ll find another quality player. Still, it’s hard to get too excited about this deal.
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