Stephon Gilmore traded to Panthers: Grades for Carolina, Patriots

Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images /

The Carolina Panthers have traded for cornerback Stephon Gilmore just hours before he would’ve been released. Grades for the teams in the trade. 

Stephon Gilmore is heading to the Carolina Panthers as the team has traded a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for the 31-year-old cornerback.

The NFL world was rocked on Tuesday morning with the reports that Stephon Gilmore would be released by New England. However, the caveat was that cutting the cornerback wouldn’t be official until 4 p.m. ET, meaning that a team could come in and make a trade if they had the right offering to the Patriots. That team ended up being the Panthers.

Carolina recently also traded for 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson after they lost rookie first-rounder Jaycee Horn for a substantial length of time to injury. Now, a shaky secondary has a promising young player in his second season and Gilmore, a two-time All-Pro, to man the outside cornerback spots once the latter returns from the PUP list after Week 6.

This is a blockbuster move for the league, even if the compensation coming to New England is modest in the kindest terms. So how do we grade this trade? We’re handing out an immediate report card.

Panthers Trade Grade for Stephon Gilmore Deal

Carolina isn’t playing around. While some might criticize the Panthers in that they are fighting for second in the NFC South behind the Buccaneers, the fact of the matter is this is a team that is competing at a high level right now but the secondary is an issue.

The team acquiring Henderson recently was a move that could help the present and future, without question. But Gilmore, once he’s eligible to return in Week 7, alleviates the loss of Horn in a monster way. Moreover, if Henderson develops under a functional regime, then they have a 1-2 combo in 2021 and beyond with Henderson and Horn.

On top of that, the Panthers gave up next to nothing to get a player who was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year two seasons ago. That’s tremendous value and is another sign that Carolina is wholly under the right leadership right now and the 3-1 start to the season is a sign of more good things to come.

Grade: A+

Patriots Trade Grade for Stephon Gilmore Deal

At the end of the day, the Patriots forced their hand in a Stephon Gilmore trade in terms of getting limited compensation by being set to release him. With that said, some credit is due for not just cutting him and getting something in return.

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The situation with Gilmore and his future in New England had become untenable. They were never going to pay him the money he wanted based on everything Bill Belichick has almost ever shown us with players who are aging. Thus, the departure always felt imminent. And again, getting something — even if it’s a sixth-rounder two years down the road — is better than just having him walk away.

Grade: B-