StePH On The Gas: Stephon Gilmore headed to Carolina in stunning trade with Patriots
The 2021 Carolina Panthers believe they can win now, and they have yet another key playmaker on defense to prove it.
Stephon Gilmore, the tenth-year cornerback formerly out of South Carolina, a four-time Pro Bowler, and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, has been traded from the New England Patriots to the Carolina Panthers. The move comes hours after the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick announced they were planning to mutually part ways with their first-round draft pick from 2012. In return, New England receives a 2023 sixth-round draft pick from Carolina.
In response to the shocking trade Matt Rhule, head coach of the Panthers, had nothing but praises for Gilmore. "We're really excited to have a player of his caliber. (He's) a tremendous professional...looking forward to having him when we play the Giants."
The 31-year-old Gilmore has yet to play a game in 2021 due to a quad injury he sustained playing against the Dolphins last season. As Rhule mentioned, the Rock Hill, SC native is expected to return to the football field against the Giants in three weeks.
When asked why the trade for Gilmore was made, Panthers' general manager Scott Fitterer simply responded by mentioning "the quality" of the person Gilmore is. "He'll be a great veteran presence for the young guys we have. You couple him with Donte (Jackson) and those are good mentors for that group. The stronger we are as a group in the backend, the better off we'll be."
That "group" consists of 2021 first-round draft pick Jaycee Horn, 2020 first-round draft pick CJ Henderson (who was traded from the Jaguars to Carolina just two weeks ago), as well as Donte Jackson and AJ Bouye. Add the veteran Gilmore to the mix and all of a sudden, the Charlotte-based franchise finds themselves quite loaded at the cornerback position.
Despite his older age and recent injuries, Carolina has acquired a more-than-capable playmaker to a young, fast defense. If healthy, Gilmore may just be the final piece that gives the Panthers a chance to possibly contend with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for sole possession of the NFC South.
Entering his tenth NFL season, Gilmore has 411 total tackles, 114 passes defended, 25 interceptions; two returned for touchdowns. He also has seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.