Stephon Gilmore Trade Revisited: Who Were the Real Winners and Losers From the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts Trade?

One of the NFL's best defenses got better after the Dallas Cowboys traded for Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts. Is it too good to be true?

One of the best defenses in the NFL got better after the Dallas Cowboys traded for Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts. Gilmore is coming off of a strong season and has an incredible résumé, allowing Dallas to build one of the only complete teams heading into the 2023 season.

At the same time, the Colts added draft ammunition in a rebuilding year, giving them some more assets to work with as they figure out the future of the team under a new head coach and quarterback. Despite the paltry price, it might be possible that both teams came out as winners of the Gilmore trade.

Stephon Gilmore Trade Details

Gilmore was traded on March 15, 2023. That was the first day of the 2023 league year.

The Dallas Cowboys received:

  • CB Stephon Gimore

The Indianapolis Colts received:

  • 2023 fifth-round pick, No. 176 overall (RB Evan Hull)

The Cowboys did not sign Gilmore to a contract extension after trading for him, instead opting to keep him at his current contract with one year remaining for a cap hit of $9.9 million.

Players Involved in the Stephon Gilmore Trade

The only other player involved in the trade for Gilmore was running back Evan Hull from Northwestern, who the Colts drafted with their acquired selection in Round 5.

Winners and Losers of the Stephon Gilmore Trade

Stephon Gilmore (5) reacts after an interception in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

The Cowboys had one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2022, and for most of the year, they were considered the No. 1 unit. They didn’t lose many players that made that possible and upgraded at cornerback, assuming Gilmore plays at the level he did last season or for most of his career.

Though Gilmore will turn 33 before the season starts, he played very well on a Colts team that didn’t offer him much defensive support and threw the defense onto the field too many times after offensive struggles led to short fields and extra snaps.

He checked in at third in Pro Football Network’s cornerback rankings and ranked fourth in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grade. The Cowboys already have a Pro Bowl-quality cornerback in Trevon Diggs and found a way to add an even more talented player at the position at the cost of a fifth-round pick.

With Anthony Brown no longer on the team — and still available for an enterprising franchise looking for cheap depth — the Cowboys could use the Gilmore trade to feel comfortable letting go of Brown without stressing about their depth.

Gilmore, however, is no guarantee. His age means he could fall off a cliff at any moment and no longer keep up with NFL receivers, especially faster ones. On teams with multiple deep threats, the Cowboys won’t have the option of shadowing the faster player with Diggs.

With only one year left on his deal, the Cowboys didn’t get very much time with a player who may not be as good as he once was. That said, Dallas likely comes out ahead in this trade.

Gilmore has a good chance of not playing up to the standard of play he set last season, but the default assumption should be that he can do it until he demonstrates otherwise. A fifth-round pick for a year of that production on a defense that also has Micah Parsons isn’t a bad deal at all.

The Colts, who are clearly entering a new phase of their franchise, didn’t get much value for an asset that they wouldn’t have been able to use. Gilmore, with just one year on his contract, couldn’t do much for any meaningful playoff window the Colts were hoping to build, so offloading him was a good move. But while a third-round pick would have been too pie-in-the-sky for the franchise, a fourth-round pick for that type of player would not have been unheard of.

Indianapolis probably comes out as a loser. So does Evan Hull, a talented running back who went a little bit higher than the consensus but nevertheless has no shot to win a starting job. Fifth-round running backs are rarely guaranteed fair opportunities to compete for a job like that, but it’s particularly difficult to imagine such a case for Hull, playing behind one of the three best running backs in the NFL.

Had he been drafted by the Rams, who picked a running back in the sixth round, he may have had a direct path to a starting job. Even a team like the Giants or Bengals, who both drafted running backs in the fifth round, may have had more long-term starting opportunities as the future of the primary backs of both of those franchises is in question.

Gilmore himself comes out as a winner. He doesn’t get much recognition relative to other elite corners for his career accomplishments, and this is one more opportunity to add to his résumé. After a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019 and two All-Pro honors, he’s on the verge of making a strong Hall of Fame case for himself. A strong season with a defense that can support him — along with a shot at another ring — could cement his case.

He may also be able to — if he so chooses — extend his career if he has a strong season with Dallas. Adding another $10 million to the bank account always seems appealing.

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