Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported that the New England Patriots were set to release veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
That’s until general manager Scott Fitterer and the Carolina Panthers stepped in and acquired the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year for a mere sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
This is an absolutely stunning culmination to Gilmore’s relationship with the Patriots. It had been reported throughout the past calendar year that New England was looking to move off the veteran. That’s primarily due to the 31-year-old Gilmore wanting a new contract.
Now that Gilmore is in Carolina, let’s look at a few winners and losers from this rare in-season blockbuster trade.
Winner: Stephon Gilmore
The veteran goes from a team that’s 1-3 on the season to another squad that’s tied with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 3-1 record in the NFC South. More than having an ability to prove himself heading into free agency, Gilmore joins a playoff contender. That’s no small thing for a dude that’s accustomed to contending.
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It’s also a reunion of sorts for the South Carolina native. Gilmore actually lives a few doors down from Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer in Charlotte. That’s a pretty cool backstory to all of this.
Loser: New England Patriots fail to get value for Stephon Gilmore
By holding out for better offers during the offseason and early stages of the 2021 campaign, the Patriots pretty much dropped the ball here. Gilmore, in the midst of a contract dispute, has missed the first four games of the season to a quad injury.
There’s no telling whether being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list had more to do with said contract dispute. Regardless, acquiring a sixth-round pick two years down the road for a dude who recorded 52 passes defended and 11 interceptions during his four seasons in New England is far below market value.
Winner: Scott Fitterer
This new Panthers general manager has taken a page out of the book of his former boss, John Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks. That is to say, Fitterer continues to be extremely active on the trade block in his first several months with the Panthers.
It started with pulling off a trade for former New York Jets first-round pick Sam Darnold. The return in that investment has included the young quarterback tallying 10 total touchdowns against three interceptions while leading Carolina to a 3-1 record in four games. Then, late last month, the Panthers swapped mid-round picks to acquire 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the jury is still out on the young corner, it’s clear that Fitterer’s aggressiveness has helped build the foundation in Carolina.
Loser: San Francisco 49ers, other “contending” teams
Regardless of his price tag, it’s somewhat surprising that other teams who deem themselves as contenders didn’t get in on the Stephon Gilmore sweepstakes.
We’ll start with the obvious. San Francisco has dealt with a ton of injuries at cornerback. That included losing former Pro Bowler Jason Verrett for the season during a Week 1 outing against the Detroit Lions. Despite this, San Francisco’s brass opted not to get in on Gilmore. Perhaps, it’s a tell that general manager John Lynch and Co. don’t believe they have a championship-caliber roster. We can also conclude that teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks — both of whom have struggled against the pass — dropped the ball here.