Stephon Gilmore Landing Spots: Where will the former Patriots CB sign?

    In an expected robust market, what are some potential landings spots for CB Stephon Gilmore following his release from the Patriots?

    The NFL world woke up to a shocker Wednesday morning. The New England Patriots are cutting four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore after a yearlong contract impasse proved intractable. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on a restructure of Gilmore’s contract, which is in its final year and is paying him just $7 million — far below market value. With several teams expected to be interested, what are some potential landing spots for Gilmore?

    Update 10/6/2021: The Carolina Panthers have acquired 2019 NFL DPOY Stephon Gilmore for a 2023 sixth-round pick. Gilmore will remain on the PUP list for the next two weeks but should provide an immediate boost to the Panthers’ defense when eligible to play.

    Patriots cut Stephon Gilmore

    Gilmore confirmed the news on Instagram, writing an open letter to Patriots fans:

    “It is with mixed emotions that I announce my goodbye to this great fan base. We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements. Thank you for supporting this Rock Hill kid and allowing him to achieve his NFL dreams.

    “To Mr. Kraft, the coaches, and the organization[,] thank you for providing me with this platform and allowing me to be part of greatness. Most of all I want to thank my teammates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind. Those moments on and off the field will never be forgotten.”

    Gilmore, 31, made no secret that he believed he was underpaid. But the Patriots balked and are now just $54,000 under the salary cap. Therefore, even if they wanted to, they didn’t have a ton of maneuverability to give Gilmore more money.

    The calendar more or less dictated the timing of this transaction. They needed to make a decision soon on Gilmore — he is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list (quad) in two weeks — but it is a bit ironic, if not telling, that they waited until after their much-anticipated showdown with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers before making the move.

    Landing spots for Gilmore

    Now a free agent, what are potential landing spots for the four-time Pro Bowler?

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Tampa Bay may be without their top three cornerbacks this week due to injuries to Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Carlton Davis. The Bucs are so desperate for help at that position that they not only signed Richard Sherman off the street last week, they played him 58 snaps against the Patriots.

    The Bucs have cap issues of their own, with just $3.2 million in remaining space. But if Gilmore wants an opportunity to both win a championship and showcase his abilities for potential 2022 free-agent suitors, a 13-week contract with the defending champs makes a lot of sense.

    Panthers, Chiefs could make a play for Gilmore

    ESPN reports that the market for Gilmore is expected to be robust. The Carolina Panthers — who have an excellent front seven, are over $19 million in cap space and will be without rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn for months — should also pick up the phone.

    The Panthers could give Gilmore a multi-year contract, a luxury few other potential contenders can afford a month into the season.

    Don’t sleep on Cleveland or the Los Angeles Chargers, either. Both have talent on defense, an ascendent quarterback, and more than $10 million in space. Any discussion involving star talent of course should include the Kansas City Chiefs as well.

    Since he’s been out of the limelight for the better part of the year, it’s easy to forget how good Gilmore is. He is just two seasons removed from winning the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. The 10-year veteran has 25 interceptions and 114 pass breakups in 124 career games spent with the Bills and Patriots.

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