UPDATE: The Patriots have traded Gilmore to the Panthers for a 2023 sixth round pick, per Tom Pelissero.
UPDATE: Patriots reporter Greg Bedard is reporting the Packers are viewed as a favorite in league circles to land Gilmore.
The New England Patriots shocked folks Wednesday morning with word they have released cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He’s been unhappy for a while now and it would appear the team decided they simply would not find anything in the trade market. He was due to earn $7 million in base salary this season, a prorated portion of which they will save in releasing him.
The bigger question now is who will be interested in signing Gilmore. As a vested veteran, he will become a free agent after 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday and will be eligible to sign with any team immediately. He was on the PUP list due to offseason quad surgery. While it is unclear if he was ready to return to action immediately, the two-time All Pro and former Defensive Player of the Year would be an upgrade for many defenses, even at 31 years of age.
The salary cap will offer some restrictions, but most teams could find the money to sign a player like Gilmore. If they’re tight against the cap, they could backload the deal or restructure other deals. Teams that might be interested on the low end of the cap include the Rams ($1,851,402 in cap space), the Ravens ($2,214,040), and the Raiders ($4.6 million).
Who makes the most sense? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are losing cornerbacks at a ridiculous rate, having signed Richard Sherman last week and moved him into the starting lineup the very same week. They lost Carlton Davis in Week 4 to a quad injury, were without Jamel Dean in the game due to a knee injury, and placed Sean Murphy-Bunting on injured reserve after the season-opener due to a dislocated elbow. They currently have $3,356,049 in cap space.
Other teams likely to be interested include the Packers — who rank 20th in pass defense efficiency and have $7,237,189 in cap space — and the Chiefs — who rank 31st in pass defense efficiency and have $3,170,630 in cap space. The Browns currently rank 13th in pass defense and the 49ers rank 19th and both have plenty of cap space.
All of this is to say there is going to be a lot of interest. There’s a lot of contenders that could use some help. My guess is he ends up with the Bucs or Chiefs, but money talks and someone will likely be willing to pony up a sizable deal knowing there won’t be the necessary draft pick compensation of a trade.