UPDATE: That has already been written Gilmore was distributed to the Carolina Panthers.
Bill Belichick doesn’t wait until his star players are about a year late. For the past two decades he’s happily tossed expensive veterans overboard, even if it looks like they still have a lot left in the tank.
On Wednesday, former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore joined Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins and Jamie Collins to an ever-growing list of surprising departures from the Patriots. New England released the lockdown cornerback on Wednesdaywhich makes him a free agent after more than four seasons at Belichick.
The move resulted in a loophole in the contract. Gilmore was on the final season of a five-year $ 65 million deal, which at the time was one of the richest deals the Pats had ever awarded. Belichick and the 31-year-old defender reportedly disagreed on the price of an extension. Rather than hobbling through a lame ducking year with varying salary caps or working out a trade, New England decided to allow the five-time pro bowler to leave early.
Gilmore has not played this season due to a lower body injury. He is entitled to remove himself from the PUP list (PUP) after week 6. That means there’s no rush to sign a contract – but here are the teams who are probably frantically texting their agent this morning.
With Gilmore and newly signed Richard Sherman, the Buccaneers could pitch the most intimidating cornerback tandem of 2019. Tampa Bay’s aspiring young high school was derailed from injuries and lackluster play. The team’s inability to slow down opposing quarterbacks – it has a pass rating of 102.6 and the league’s worst 11 touchdown passes allowed over four weeks – has emerged as a potential fatal mistake.
This only gets worse after Carlton Davis, the man who dubbed it Michael Thomas “Weird Boy” suffered a quadriceps injury against the Patriots that threatens to take him off the field for several weeks. He joins Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, two other distinguished defenders, among the walking wounded on the team.
That gives Gilmore an opportunity to join Brady, who would give him the chance to earn a second Super Bowl ring. In a degraded condition, he would be a blessing to put journeymen like Pierre Desir and Dee Delaney on the depth map and provide valuable coverage while the team’s youngsters heal.
Adding another aging veteran might not be the infusion the Chiefs need, but Kansas City isn’t able to get picky. One of the reasons why Andy Reid’s team is last at AFC West is that his defense gave up 29 or more points in every game this fall.
Gilmore would upgrade to a secondary school that would allow quarterbacks to throw more than 291 yards per game. He’d join a cornerback group that would include last year’s rookie sensation L’Jarius Sneed and former round one (but not Chiefs) picks Deandre Baker and Mike Hughes. There is a lot of talent in this group, but it didn’t shine in 2021; Hughes and Sneed each allowed a passport rating of 116 or worse in reporting this season.
Gilmore wouldn’t address Kansas City’s biggest problems, However. He won’t build a pass rush that is in the bottom four of the league on both sacks and quarterback hits. He’s not a rangy linebacker who can slow down mobile quarterbacks or chase traffic jams from sideline to sideline. But he’s a seasoned leader who can be the tide for a young high school graduate. That would be immensely valuable to Reid – even if it took some accounting gymnastics to fit the veteran into the team’s $ 3.1 million salary cap.
The Packers’ defenses were dealt two massive blows this fall. The first came when pass rusher Za’Darius Smith sustained a back injury that put him in the injured reserve in Week 1. Three games later, lockdown corner Jaire Alexander left a win over the Steelers with his arm in a sling. Head coach Matt LaFleur isn’t sure when either will return, however it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.
This is terrible news for a team whose defense has prevented their more than ten years from capitalizing on Aaron Rodgers. The last time Green Bay finished in the top five teams in the league in points or allowed yards was in 2011 – a date that doesn’t coincide so coincidentally with the team’s last Super Bowl.
The addition of Gilmore would provide Alexander insurance, give Eric Stokes extra expert guidance for the first round of 2021, and the team’s exposure to Kevin King (a man who plays cornerback like he’s constantly trying to juggle invisible chainsaws) limit. Green Bay doesn’t have a lot of space to work with, but it can offer Gilmore around $ 6 million to secure its services for the remainder of the season. That might be enough to convince him to join a future Hall of Fame quarterback for the second time in his career.
The Seahawks haven’t had elite defenses since 2016 but continue to win because Russell Wilson is a magician. Unfortunately for Pete Carroll, his illusions are thin in the playoffs, where his team hasn’t gotten past the Divisional Round since Malcolm Butler was broken in the stupidest passing game in history.
The weakest link on the team this fall is a secondary link that is struggling to get big games. Young veterans Tre Flowers and Sidney Jones enabled a 78.6 percent completion rate in coverage, undoing any progress DJ Reed has made across the field.
Gilmore would stabilize this group, take on the high profile duties of a pass-lucky NFC West, and add a little extra lockout coverage when Jamal Adams is sent to the lightning (so about 1 in 3 snaps). The Seahawks need an insurance policy should Russ run out of ingredients, as he did in 2020. Gilmore is not a perfect solution, but it would be a start.
The defense of the titans is very bad. One of their fixes to improve last year’s unit at number 29 was to sign Janoris Jenkins, who rewarded that trust by making Zach Wilson look like a viable franchise quarterback. Once you’ve given Jets fans hope, you screwed up.
Mike Vrabel is not an official branch of the Belichick coaching tree, but he certainly acts like one. For the past several years, he’s not been shy about adding former Pats to the list – Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and Logan Ryan have all taken significant Nashville snapshots. Bringing Gilmore in would give Vrabel a tentpole corner that could make Carson Wentz, Davis Mills, and Trevor Lawrence all look stupid.
Tennessee is in position for a third straight playoff bid because the rest of AFC South is a mess. Gilmore would provide an extra layer of protection in a thin secondary, although the combination with Jenkins would give the Titans one of the oldest 1-2 punches at this location.
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