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Chiefs, Panthers Could Face Competition For Former Defensive Player of the Year

Free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been connected to the Panthers and Chiefs, but the New England Patriots could sweep in and get him
Stephon Gilmore Patriots

Two-time All-Pro and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore could make a return to the New England Patriots. After spending the 2023 season with the Dallas Cowboys, the five-time Pro Bowler remains unsigned as he waits for his perfect fit. While he’s not the player he once was, the one-time Super Bowl champion remained a productive starter during his lone season with Dallas, finishing the year with a respectable 71.2 PFF grade, the 35th-best mark out of 127 eligible players.

Earlier in the offseason, the Carolina Panthers appeared to be the frontrunners for Gilmore. However, the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a deal, which made the Kansas City Chiefs the most likely landing spot. However, during a recent appearance at Tom Brady’s Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Stephon Gilmore said he’d be willing to return to his former team.

“You never know [about a Patriots return]. I’ll weigh my options. This is a place that I played great ball, so just letting it play out how it’s gonna be.”

Patriots Join Chiefs, Panthers In Stephon Gilmore Free Agent Sweepstakes

The Patriots have the money to sign Stephon Gilmore, and they have a need at the position. As of this posting, New England leads the league with $45.6 million in cap space and would only need a fraction to bring Gilmore back home. The Patriots have a potential lockdown cornerback in 2023 first-round pick Christian Gonzalez, but the rest of the depth chart could use some help. Head coach Jerod Mayo should incorporate a man-heavy defensive scheme, and you need reliable cornerbacks to limit yardage. Gilmore could be the perfect signing for a team that will probably need to win games with defense in 2024.

Of course, the Patriots might not want Stephon Gilmore. While the cornerback could be a good short-term fix, he’s too old to solve their long-term issues. New England is embracing a rebuild and could decide to see what their young talent can do with extended playing time. If that’s the case, then Kansas City and Carolina remain the two most likely suitors for the former Defensive Player of the Year.

Who Will Sign Gilmore?

The Panthers came the closest to signing Stephon Gilmore, but they might not have the money to seal the deal. Despite the relatively underwhelming roster, Carolina only has $6 million in available cap space, the second-lowest number in the league. Gilmore wants to sign with a winner at this point in his career, and the Panthers won’t provide that opportunity in 2024. Perhaps a massive pay raise will make him overlook the subpar roster talent, but Carolina will need to get creative if they want to fit his contract under the salary cap.

Unlike the Patriots and Panthers, the Chiefs can offer Stephon Gilmore a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl championship. With L’Jarius Sneed now on the Titans, somebody must step up opposite lockdown cornerback Trent McDuffie. Perhaps Joshua Williams is up for the challenge, but signing an experienced veteran like Gilmore wouldn’t hurt.

Main Photo: Tim Heitman – USA Today Sports


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