Stephon Gilmore Free Agency Profile: Potential landing spots, contract situation, stats, and more

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is a free agent and the sense is he'll get a two or three-year contract -- perhaps from the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore, 31, probably has one big payday left — that will presumably come in the 2022 free agent market. Gilmore just finished up the five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Patriots in 2017. While Gilmore proved in 2021 that he can still put up stats and play at a high level when healthy, the expectation is his offers will be far smaller this time around.

Stephon Gilmore: Free Agency Overview

Gilmore has age and health working against him. He turns 32 this year and has appeared in just 19 of a possible 33 games the last two seasons. A return to Carolina is certainly plausible, but it’s hard to see how Carolina can afford to keep both Gilmore and Donte Jackson, another cornerback set to become a free agent.

Recapping Gilmore’s 2021 season

Gilmore missed the majority of the 2021 season due to injury. He started the year on the physically unable to perform list, recovering from a quadriceps tear suffered the year before. During his recovery, the Patriots traded him to the Panthers, ending a contract impasse that would have resulted in his outright release if a deal hadn’t been struck. The Panthers gave up a sixth-round pick in 2023 for what ultimately might be eight games of service on a bad team.

During those eight games, Gilmore was largely a part-time player. He had 16 tackles and 2 interceptions on 25 targets. He allowed 68% of those 25 attempts to be completed, 9.4 yards per completion, and 6.4 yards per target. Opposing quarterbacks combined for a 78.6 rating when targeting Gilmore. He missed the final two games of the season with a groin injury.

Gilmore’s contract estimate and salary cap implications

Gilmore never wanted to be in this position. He made no secret prior to the 2021 season that he wanted a new contract, but instead of giving him one, the Patriots traded him for next to nothing. Gilmore has some culpability here, though. He needs to have a reasonable understanding of his current value.

There were reports in the fall that Gilmore wanted $15 million a year as part of a new multi-year contract. He might get that — if he’s OK with signing a two-year deal. Spotrac lists Gilmore’s market valuation at two years, $28.3 million. The Panthers, with $17.8 million in cap space, could afford that.

Possible landing spots for Gilmore

Beyond the realistic possibility that he re-signs with the Panthers, Gilmore should have a number of contending teams interested in his services — assuming his contract demands are reasonable. The Los Angeles Chargers ($57.5 million in cap space), Arizona Cardinals ($2.7 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($48.8 million), and Kansas City Chiefs ($3.8 million) would all be better teams with a past-his-prime-but-still-valuable cornerback like Gilmore.

What they’re saying about Gilmore

“He was still quite good in 2021, despite being asked to wear a bunch of different hats defensively. Although he still played a good amount of press man, Gilmore often played in off man and a cornucopia of zone assignments, including some inverted Cover 2. For coming off a serious injury with no training camp, he fared quite well.” — Pro Football Network analyst Dalton Miller on Stephon Gilmore

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