Stephon Gilmore landing spots: Best fits as Pro Bowl CB ‘being patient and waiting for the right opportunity’

Written by on June 17, 2024

The NFL is now on summer break with organized team activities and minicamps now wrapped up. 

However, four players from senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco’s top 100 free agent rankings remain on the open market, with the best player available ranking 31st on his list: cornerback Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore, the last defensive back to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award — which he did in 2019 with the New England Patriots — is a five time Pro Bowl selection (2016, 2018-2021) and two-time first-team All-Pro (2018-2019) who’s set to enter his 13th NFL season in 2024 after being selected 10th overall out of South Carolina by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft

“Being patient right now,” Gilmore said Wednesday, via MassLive.com, when asked about his NFL future on the red carpet of Tom Brady’s Patriots Hall of Fame ceremony. “I feel good, Year 13, been playing a long time. So I’m just being patient and waiting for the right opportunity.”  

Following five seasons in Buffalo, the last of which in 2016 culminated with his first career Pro Bowl nod, he signed a five-year, $65 million contract to remain in the AFC East with the New England Patriots. Gilmore earned three of his five Pro Bowl selections and both of his All-Pro nods (2018-2019) under Bill Belichick’s tutelage. His first All-Pro season in 2018 culminated in the Patriots’ 13-3 Super Bowl LIII victory over the Los Angeles Rams in which Gilmore hauled in a fourth-quarter interception near the goal line.

He has since become a high-level journeyman following his Patriots career (2017-2020), suiting up for the Carolina Panthers (2021), Indianapolis Colts (2022) and Dallas Cowboys (2023) the last three seasons. Gilmore registered a 60.3 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage last season, which ranked ninth-best in the NFL among 39 players with 80 or more passes thrown their way. He was at times tasked with defending opponents’ top receivers, including DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown

Here is a look at some opportunities that could become the right one in 2024 for Gilmore, who will turn 34 years old on Sept. 19 — weeks into the upcoming season.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are the fit that make the most sense. He is beloved in Dallas’ defensive backs room as well as the entire locker room. Cowboys 2023 first-team All-Pro cornerback DaRon Bland credits Gilmore’s mentorship as a key reason for his breakout season in which he led the NFL in interceptions (nine) while setting the league’s single-season record for pick-sixes (five). 

“I’ve always loved for Stephon to come back,” Bland said on May 1. “He’s been a guy that I’ve always been watching growing up. Having him in the room last year was great. I would love to have him back.”  

Also, with Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs returning from a torn ACL suffered in practice prior to the team’s Week 3 game at the Arizona Cardinals last season, additional depth could be helpful. Dallas did select Wake Forest cornerback Caelen Carson in the fifth round of the 2024 NFL Draft in April, but new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer may also appreciate having someone around whom he knows can contribute right away. The Cowboys do have some room in their budget to bring back Gilmore on a one-year deal since they have just over $12 million ($12.12 million to be exact, per OverTheCap.com) in effective cap space at the moment. 

Gilmore himself would also appreciate a second season in Dallas. 

“I talk to him every day. Of course I want him back, and he would love to be back,” Cowboys wide receiver and Gilmore’s BFF Brandin Cooks said at Cowboys OTAs. “The thing about Gilly is he’s a pro. If his number gets called, he’s going to be ready. He’s not a Hall of Famer by accident. I would love to have him in here. We see each other every day. We’ll see how that goes.”  

Kansas City Chiefs

This late in Gilmore’s career, it’s clear he will only be looking at teams with a legit shot to be contenders and make a playoff run. The back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs certainly check that box, and they could also use a little more cornerback depth after losing L’Jarius Sneed to the Tennessee Titans in free agency following him signing a four-year, $76.4 million deal to make the move to Nashville.

The cornerback spot opposite 2023 first-team All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie is currently set to be manned by third-year players in Nazeeh Johnson and Jaylen Watson. Gilmore’s championship-winning experience at the position could be a beneficial to a cornerbacks room without Sneed in Kansas City. 

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens were the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 2023, but attrition on both their coaching staff and their roster has Baltimore set to incredibly different defensively in 2024. One of those positions includes cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey. Both Rock Ya-Sin (49ers) and Ronald Darby (Jaguars) have departed for greener pastures, which is why last season’s AFC runner-up utilized its first-round draft choice (30th overall) on Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins

Gilmore, along with Humphrey, could prove to be two great mentors for Wiggins. Plus, teaming up with two-time NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson would allow the 12-year vet to remain in the Super Bowl hunt in his 13th season. 

Detroit Lions

The NFC runner-ups would fit Gilmore’s desire to join a contender and give him an opportunity to mentor cornerbacks Terrion Arnold (24th overall pick) and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (61st overall pick), their first two picks of the 2024 NFL Draft, in a redone defensive backfield. Detroit also traded for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl champion corner Carlton Davis, and Gilmore, along with Davis, could be steady veterans in what is shaping up to be a youthful defensive backfield for the Lions.  

Prediction

Gilmore can’t go wrong with any of the four teams mentioned here since all four were top three seeds in their respective conferences a year ago. However, Gilmore’s 2023 home — the Cowboys — makes the most sense given his established locker room rapport plus the element of him being a veteran who could pick up new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s defense quickly.

Dallas has been pinching pennies in the name of carving out cap space for looming top-dollar extensions for quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons, so if Gilmore takes a one-year deal worth likely no more than $2 million or $3 million, then the Cowboys should be his 2024 home. 

The post Stephon Gilmore landing spots: Best fits as Pro Bowl CB ‘being patient and waiting for the right opportunity’ first appeared on CBS Sports.


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