Had he hit the open market, Stephon Gilmore would have been in high demand.
When news broke this week that the New England Patriots planned to release Gilmore, multiple top-tier quarterbacks made recruiting pitches to the star cornerback, NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported Saturday.
“Teams elsewhere around the league were saying, ‘All right, well if he’s going to be free, well then the recruiting process will be on,’ ” Garafolo said on NFL Network. “In fact, quarterbacks around the league — I’m talking star quarterbacks around the league — were texting Gilmore: ‘Come here, come play here.’ Their teams would have been behind them had they gotten to 4 o’clock.”
They never got the chance, as the Patriots wound up trading Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. It was a modest return for the NFL’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. Garafolo suggested the Patriots could have gotten more had they shopped Gilmore to additional teams.
“There was interest in Stephon Gilmore,” Garafolo said. “After the trade, some teams were like, ‘Well we would’ve done that! They didn’t really engage us in talks.’ So that is why Stephon Gilmore went for a late pick — not even this year, but the year after. Great deal for the Panthers.”
Gilmore’s departure concluded a months-long contract dispute between him and the Patriots. Garafolo reported New England did offer Gilmore a restructured contract before moving him, but one that would have required him to hit certain incentives in order to earn any additional money. Gilmore declined.
“They offered Gilmore the chance to restructure in a way that he could have earned more money than what was on the books,” Garafolo said. “Now, he was going to have to be on the field and he was going to have to perform to make it happen, but they were giving him the chance to do that. And they did want to retain him at one point; they just couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Gilmore, who has not played or practiced since last December, will be eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list and make his Panthers debut on Oct. 24. Carolina hosts New England two weeks later.
The former All-Pro cover man said he has “no hard feelings” toward the Patriots.
The Patriots will be shorthanded at cornerback in their first game since the trade, as starter Jalen Mills and reserve Shaun Wade both will not play Sunday against the Houston Texans.
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