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In preparing to write this piece, I sat down and put together a list of NFL organizations that could use the services of a 31-year old cornerback with elite man coverage skills, the ability to play in a number of different coverage schemes, and who was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year just a few seasons ago.
I came up with a list of *double-checks notes* 32 NFL teams.
With the news that the New England Patriots are going to release cornerback Stephon Gilmore, there should be no shortage of suitors on the open market when the move becomes official. After a lengthy impasse over a new contract the organization decided to move on from Gilmore, who is coming off a torn quad muscle that sidelined him for the back half of last season and the start to the 2021 campaign. Reportedly, Gilmore wants a big-dollar contract, which could limit the number of teams that can afford to sign him.
Furthermore, there is speculation that the Patriots, by putting this story out into the world, are trying to create a trade market for his services:
I'm told Gilmore is disappointed something couldn't be accomplished to allow him to stay. He has enjoyed his time in NE. Also don't rule out the possibility of a trade before 4 o'clock. In getting this news out early, that remains a possibility. #Patriots
— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 6, 2021
Something that was just suggested to me that by one rival front office: Getting news of the Stephon Gilmore release out there now, well before it becomes official at 4pm, a team could still swoop in and make a trade. Time to do that if a club wants to make sure it gets him.
— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) October 6, 2021
New England did try to move Gilmore last season prior to the trade deadline, however, a deal could not be reached. By generating a market for the player now, the Patriots could bait a team into paying a little more via a trade to ensure they acquire Gilmore.
Now, what teams might be interested? Honestly, I could just list the 31 other teams in alphabetical order and be done with this article, but I tried to narrow it as best as I could.
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Could Gilmore be the next former-Patriot to make the move to Florida?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been hit hard by injuries, particularly at the cornerback spot. Prior to Week 4’s meeting with the Patriots, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean were both sidelined with injuries, and then Carlton Davis went down with a quad injury of his own. The Buccaneers were forced to turn to the recently-acquired Richard Sherman to start the game (and play 98% of the defensive snaps) and then Pierre Desir once Davis went down.
Adding Gilmore to the mix would certainly bolster a defense brutalized by injuries at the cornerback spot, and give Tampa Bay a true CB1 option while Sherman works back to full football shape.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Buccaneers have just over $3 million in available cap space, so some corresponding moves would need to be made, but Jason Licht has been creative in the past (most recently finding ways to bring the bulk of the roster back after winning a title) and given the needs, this might be the fit.
(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Similar to the Buccaneers, the Baltimore Ravens are another team that has dealt with injury issues this season. The organization lost depth at the cornerback position when both Khalil Dorsey and Iman Marshall went down during training camp, and then lost starting cornerback Marcus Peters when he suffered a torn ACL in practice. The team also lost Chris Westry, another cornerback, when he injured a knee in mid-September.
The team still has options at the position, with Marlon Humphrey, veteran Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young and Anthony Averett. But adding Gilmore into the mix would go a long way towards replacing what was lost, particularly when Peters went down with his ACL injury.
Also similar to the Buccaneers is the cap space situation. The Ravens have just over $2 million available, so they would really need to do some work to create space for Gilmore.
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
One of the units that has not exactly performed in line with expectations heading into the season is the defense from the Kansas City Chiefs. The team sits at 2-2, with losses to the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers, and they have given up points in every single game this season. The Chiefs allowed 29 points to the Browns in Week 1, 36 to the Ravens in Week 2, 24 to the Chargers in Week 3 and last week Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles put 30 on them.
They could use some help on defense.
Again, the cap is a consideration. Kansas City has just over $3 million available in cap space. But imagine a secondary with Tyrann Mathieu and Stephon Gilmore? Two of the better defensive backs in the league, working together? Might be enough to turn around that unit in a hurry.
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Entering 2021, the biggest question mark in Dallas — after the health of quarterback Dak Prescott of course — was whether the defense would rebound after a difficult 2020 campaign.
Thanks to Dan Quinn’s self-scouting, the impact of rookie Micah Parsons, and elite-level play from cornerback Trevon Diggs, this unit has the potential to be good.
Adding Gilmore could make it great.
Imaging pairing Diggs, who has turned into a turnover machine due to his combination of short-area quickness and his ability to read quarterbacks and drive on routes, with Gilmore, an elite-level cornerback with the man coverage skills to travel with the most dangerous receiving threat the opposition offers. Quinn could have a lot of fun scheming up coverages for that pair of cornerbacks. With Dallas looking like contenders in the NFC, this is the kind of splash move that Jerry Jones, even with just over $4 million in cap space, would love to make.
Green Bay Packers
Another team that could use some help on the defensive side of the football is the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay sits atop the NFC North with a 3-1 record, but the defense has looked shaky at times this season. They let Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints hang 38 points on them back in Week 1, then allowed 17 to the Detroit Lions, 28 to the San Francisco 49ers and 17 last week to what is left of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
A Google search for “Packers defensive woes” returns over one million results, and all of them are rather recent. But surveying those articles, and watching the Packers this season, some concerns emerge. The defensive line is struggling to get pressure up front, and there are concerns over the cornerback spot, including Kevin King. Plus, fellow corner Jaire Alexander is dealing with a shoulder injury that could see him miss significant time.
Enter a former Defensive Player of the Year.
The Packers are in better shape financially than the teams listed, with just over $7 million in available cap space. That could make them one of the favorites to secure Gilmore’s services in the next few hours.
During the summer, one of the teams that came up most often when contemplating a potential Gilmore trade was the Seattle Seahawks. And with good reason. There were questions about the Seattle cornerback room prior to the start of the year, and the Seahawks defense has not exactly answered those concerns with their start to the season.
Pete Carroll and the coaching staff have shuffled the starting lineup at cornerback a few times this season, moving players like Sidney Jones and Tre Flowers in and out of the lineup. Acquiring Gilmore would solidify one CB spot, going a long way towards shoring up that unit.
Financially, the Seahawks are close to having enough cap space to fit Gilmore already, with over $11 million in available cap space at their disposal.
Washington Football Team
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Expectations were high entering this season for the Washington Football Team defense. With the presence of elite talent up front like Chase Young, the addition of linebacker Jamin Davis in the first round of the draft, and the acquisition of man coverage cornerback William Jackson III in free agency, the belief was that Washington could roll out a Top Five — or better — defense in 2021.
That…has not exactly materialized. The Football Team sits at 2-2 on the year and in the past few weeks that defense allowed 29 points to Daniel Jones and the Giants, 43 points to Josh Allen and the Bills, and last week 30 points in a win over Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
There are a number of issues with the Washington defense right now, but it perhaps stems from an inability to get pressure with four (as they probably though they could given the talent up front) and then some miscommunication issues in the secondary.
Now, could Gilmore fix everything? No, but he sure would help. If the Football Team needs to blitz more to generate pressure, his man coverage skills would certainly help in the secondary, and it would allow defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to play more favorable matchups, particularly pairing Gilmore on one side with Jackson on the other.
Washington has almost $14 million in available cap space, so not much would need to be done to make this work.
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
One of the storylines of this young 2021 NFL season has been Phil Snow’s defense in Carolina. The Panthers are young and athletic on the defensive side of the football, and Snow has put together some schemes and concepts that are challenging opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks alike. Few can forget the three-straight plays against New Orleans where the Panthers ran the exact same blitz on each. The results? Incompletion, incompletion and interception.
Now, the defense is a bit banged up right now. Shaq Thompson and Yetur Gross-Matos are injured up front, and in the secondary first-round pick Jaycee Horn is on IR. The team did acquire C.J. Henderson via trade, adding a former first-round selection. So perhaps the organization does not make a move for Gilmore.
But you cannot help but wonder what this defense could be like if they add someone with his coverage skills and experience. And with almost $20 million in available cap space, the Panthers could make it happen.
Los Angeles Chargers
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Now this could be a ton of fun.
Under Brandon Staley, the Los Angeles Chargers look like true contenders in the AFC West, and beyond. Justin Herbert continues to impress at the quarterback spot, and Staley’s influence on the defensive side of the football is paying immediate dividends.
Rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. has played a big role, as have safeties Derwin James and Nasir Adderley. The team still has Chris Harris Jr. in the secondary as well, and has relied on contributions from Michael Davis and recently Tevaughn Campbell at the cornerback spot with Harris out with a shoulder injury. Harris has missed ten total games since joining the Chargers prior to 2020, and that might lead the organization to look into adding Gilmore.
Dropping the former DPOY into this mix, under Staley’s guidance? That could be fascinating to study. Given the offenses the Chargers have to contend with, both in the division and in the AFC, you might think that you can never have enough help on the defensive side of the ball. With nearly $12 million in cap space to play with, the Chargers might want to make this happen.