Carolina Panthers trade with Patriots adds all-pro corner Stephon Gilmore to roster
After losing rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn during the matchup with Houston to a broken foot that needed surgery and an unknown timetable to heal, the Panthers were forced to rely on the next-man-up philosophy to fill a void that would clearly take maximum effort from the depth chart. When the Panthers faced off against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, it was clear that it might be later than sooner for the group to get in sink and be able to reach the same effectiveness. The team made a trade for then Jaguars defensive back CJ Henderson who saw reps against Dallas but appeared to struggle a bit due to his apparent lack of time in the Carolina playbook. That should drastically improve in his second week. But the prospect of Henderson being able to fully replace what Horn was contributing seemed to be a looming question until this week.
When asked about how the team could utilize all of the top level players in the secondary, Matt Rhule made it clear that having that amount of talent in the lineup bolstered the team's flexibility and give more looks to opposing offenses. "It allows us to put more guys in the box, and go be aggressive," Rhule said.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning - the Carolina Panthers reached a trade deal with the New England Patriots prior to the start of practice which brought cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the queen city. Gilmore immediate adds the experience needed opposite Donte Jackson. It also adds a player that younger team members can work with to help shorten the learning curve for the long-term plans the team has which, at thirty-one years old, Gilmore may not be a fit for. It was a good as well as inexpensive move, with regard to future picks, to bring that level of talent into the locker room.
The Gilmore trade cost the Panthers a 2023 sixth-round selection. The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and two-time First-team All-Pro (2018, 2019) is in the final year of his five-year $65 million contract. The $5.05 million salary impact for the remainder of Gilmore's contract only exists for the remainder of the 2021 season.
But according to team general manager Scott Fitterer, the team's biggest concern is to win now and not focus on contract extensions. "He'll be a great veteran presence for the young guys we have," Fitterer said.
The move caught many in the Carolina panthers locker room off guard. Jackson, as many of his teammates, learned about the deal this morning but was pleased that moves were being done to help the organization be better positioned to secure wins this season. "I'm good with any move that's going to help this team win and help this team reach the level that we're trying to reach and that's elite," Jackson said.
In addition to his skills as a lock-down corner, Gilmore adds his experience as a Superbowl LIII champion. With the Panthers roster being so young, adding Gilmore gives younger players a road map to what it will take to go from just a good group of players to a contender in the NFL playoffs and beyond. Gilmore should be eligible for the week 7 matchup against the New York Giants.