NFL free agency opened up a few weeks ago and Stephon Gilmore remains unsigned. This may feel strange, given Gilmore won Defensive Player of the Year only three years ago. But the quad injury Gilmore suffered halfway through the 2020 campaign sidelined him for almost an entire calendar year. He left the New England Patriots on not-so-great terms and ended up in Carolina for 2021.
In eight games, Gilmore recorded two interceptions and two passes defended. He was the best corner on the roster but that isn't saying much for a bad Panthers team. Gilmore's days of complete and utter shutdown coverage are probably over. But he still has something to offer as a veteran corner who probably has more left in the tank than you'd think considering he's appeared in only 19 games in the last two years.
Gilmore is probably the best available player left on the free agency market. He won't land a huge deal but a one-year agreement to pump his stock back up and allow him to potentially cash in next year feels like the path he'll take. Here are three possible destinations for the All-Pro cornerback.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have been linked to Gilmore for a while now and it's easy to understand why. KC now resides in the tier of contention where veterans will sign on the low to play with Patrick Mahomes and for a guaranteed shot at a Super Bowl. They also desperately need help in their secondary, especially since it seems they're letting Tyrann Mathieu walk this offseason. Gilmore would be a very welcome addition on that front, giving the team a legit cover corner who can handle most of the assignments thrown at him. It may not be the perfect spot for Gilmore, since he's no longer at the peak of his powers and thus can't captain an elite pass defense on his own. But KC needs help and they know it.
The Eagles already have their own No. 1 corner in Darius Slay. Adding Gilmore would be a very useful addition for a secondary that is thin otherwise. Gilmore's wife also tweeted that the Eagles had been in contact with Gilmore, so we know for sure they're interested. Philly needs help for Slay, as evidenced by their absolute evisceration at the hands of Tom Brady in the playoffs this past season. Because of that, they could end up being a good spot for Gilmore because they'll be more willing to meet his price than other potential destinations. If Gilmore wants a multi-year deal with a reasonably high annual salary, the Eagles feel like the most likely team to give it to him.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco was linked to Gilmore when free agency opened earlier this month. The Niners didn't want to shell out top dollar for the best corners on the market and really couldn't even if they wanted to because they still have Jimmy Garoppolo's $26 million salary on their books. He won't be there forever but until he actually gets traded it hamstrings the team's ability to upgrade the roster. That may be why they haven't signed Gilmore yet. Cornerback has been a weak spot for San Francisco, even when they went to the Super Bowl, and Gilmore would be the top guy immediately if he signed there. The Niners are right between the Eagles and the Chiefs in terms of championship contention, but their recent history suggests Gilmore has a legit shot at a deep playoff run should he head out west. Incentive on both sides to get a deal done.