Spooky season is upon us, but no one was expecting surprise cuts to catch us off guard.
First, it was Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys linebacker is departing the team just two years after signing a five-year extension because a dip in his play has let others on the depth chart shine. And now, it’s Stephon Gilmore:
A stunner: Patriots are releasing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform List after Week 6, source tells ESPN. pic.twitter.com/31H8KQF8hq
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 6, 2021
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 6, 2021
Gilmore is one of the league’s most accomplished cornerbacks in recent memory. And his cut is one of the most high-profile releases in the Bill Belichick era with the Patriots. The 31-year-old cornerback has four Pro Bowl nominations, is a two-time first-team All-Pro honoree, and – when healthy – one of the NFL’s top lockdown corners. Gilmore has 25 interceptions, 2 pick-sixes, 6 forced fumbles, and three recoveries to his name. But finishing the 2020 season on IR with a torn quad, then starting the 2021 campaign on the PUP list because of the same quad issue has led to Gilmore being the odd-man out in New England.
To which I say … sup Bears?
Remember, the Bears have long had interest in bringing in Gilmore. He was a free agent target in 2017 before signing with New England. And there was an out-of-the-blue Gilmore-Bears trade rumor that came about randomly in 2020. There was even chatter of Gilmore potentially finding himself on the chopping block this past summer. It didn’t happen, but it put us on high alert in case something was to happen down the line.
The fit is pretty obvious. Chicago has needs at cornerback. Ever since cutting Kyle Fuller, the need has been staring us in the face. Even after signing Desmond Trufant (since cut) and drafting Thomas Graham Jr. (now on the practice squad), the Bears still had cornerback needs. And with all due respect to Kindle Vildor (PFF’s 86th ranked CB) and Duke Shelley (70th), because this team fancies itself as contending for something, the Bears should be exploring upgrades. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be trading future draft capital for a return specialist. Or it would’ve been operating differently when it came to cap management.
Now that we have established the needs and possible fit, here comes the harsh reality. Truth is, signing Gilmore feels like a long shot. First, he’ll need a clean bill of health. Once that gets squared away, the Bears will need to fend off any number of interested teams. It’s not as if there will be a shortage of suitors looking for secondary help in a pass-happy NFL.
And, apparently, That Team in Wisconsin tops the list:
I'd be shocked if the Patriots aren't able to trade Gilmore, and the Packers are considered the favorite in league circles.
— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) October 6, 2021
But there is a non-zero chance Chicago could pull off some unforeseen signing.
It’s just that the monetary issues are probably a hangup:
The only teams that can not afford him under that scenario would be the Saints, Falcons, Bears, Cardinals, Ravens, Rams, Dolphins, Colts, and Giants though they could create cap room to make a move.
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) October 6, 2021
OverTheCap.com has the Bears with about $2,308,451 in available cap space. And by Jason Fitzgerald’s estimations, that is not enough to get a deal done. I suppose the Bears could do some restructuring, make a surprise cut, or get down with some unknown cap shenanigans. But it’s tough to see at this stage of the game. Nevertheless, keep your eyes on this situation. One of the NFL’s 31 other teams is going to land Gilmore. And I hope it isn’t one the Bears play down the stretch.