It was reported on Wednesday that the New England Patriots would release star cornerback Stephon Gilmore unless a trade partner emerged. The NFL world thought Gilmore could find himself in Tampa playing alongside his former teammate Tom Brady, but an interested team did emerge hours before the release was to reportedly become official, as the Carolina Panthers sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for Gilmore.
The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still recovering from a torn quad, and is not eligible to come off of the physically unable to perform list until Week 7. Still, the addition of Gilmore to Carolina's secondary is a good one. He's in the final year of his contract and was looking for additional financial compensation this offseason, but now with a new team, the Panthers will have to revisit that issue at some point down the road.
So, who won this trade and who lost it? There are a couple different facets of this transaction to dive into, so let's grade this deal.
The Panthers' defense has been one of the more interesting storylines through the early part of the 2021 season. While they were outpowered by the Dallas Cowboys' high-flying offense 36-28 on Sunday, the Panthers still have the No. 3 defense in the league in terms of total yards allowed per game. However, the Panthers lost first-round pick corner Jaycee Horn to a broken foot and safety Juston Burris to a groin injury, so they were definitely interested in adding some pieces to their secondary. Carolina even traded for former No. 9 overall pick C.J. Henderson last month.
Adding Gilmore obviously helps the Panthers' secondary, but there's another part of this deal which makes it an "A." According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Gilmore and the Panthers are open to him playing out the final year of his deal at $5.8 million. Joe Person of The Athletic backed this up, saying that this transaction is not a "trade-and-sign" situation. With Gilmore being traded, it was fair to wonder if an extension could be part of the agreement, even if that was just a promise behind closed doors. Instead of having to commit to a 31-year-old corner for multiple years, the Panthers now have the opportunity to see how he plays and then talk extension later on. That's a big deal.
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No one is going to be happy about trading away a two-time All-Pro for a future sixth-round pick, but all is not lost for the Patriots. New England clearly did not want to extend Gilmore, which led to a rift this offseason. Then came the report that he was going to be released on Wednesday, so a sixth-round pick is just a little better than nothing.
The Patriots save $5.8 million on cap and they were able to deal Gilmore away to the other conference. More importantly, they kept him away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, they dealt Gilmore to a division rival! With Gilmore having to sit out for the first six weeks of the season, that even added to the appearance that the Patriots had somewhat moved on, as J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills started at corner. Gilmore is worth more than a future sixth-rounder, but at least he's not helping Brady pursue another Super Bowl in Tampa.