According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Patriots will trade cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. Gilmore had started the 2021 season on the PUP list after sustaining a quad injury toward the end of last season. Gilmore had been present in Foxborough through the start of the season, with teammates praising the help he was providing behind the scenes.
Schefter reported that the teams were unable to find common ground on a new contract, as Gilmore had expressed dissatisfaction with his deal as he entered the final year of a five-year, $65 million contract that he signed in 2017. With the trade, the Patriots are projected to pick up over $5.8 million in cap space, some of which could possibly be used to secure Jamie Collins, who is reportedly in negotiations to return to the team for a third stint.
The Patriots' current cornerback depth chart is topped by J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones, with JoeJuan Williams and rookie Shaun Wade serving in reserve roles. Jackson is due to hit free agency next offseason and with Gilmore no longer in the mix, there are some significant long-term questions surrounding the position group. Overall, the secondary was very good taking on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, but the razor-thin depth remains a concern for the 2021 season.
Gilmore will be best remembered for two big playoff interceptions, the first coming in the 2017 AFC Championship against the Jaguars and the second in Super Bowl 53, where pick-off of Jared Goff helped secure New England's sixth title. 2019 was Gilmore's best season with the team, as he won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
Gilmore thanked the Patriots and their fans in a farewell Instagram post. The Panthers will host the Patriots in Week 9, which could possibly be Gilmore's second game off PUP.