3 Best Fits Late In NFL Free Agency For CB Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore, NFL
NFL Analysis Network

One of the most talented players still available in NFL free agency is cornerback Stephon Gilmore. At 31 years old, Gilmore is still one of the better lockdown corners in football. Even after he was acquired by a struggling Carolina Panthers team mid-season in 2021, he proved his worth, recording two interceptions and allowing a completion percentage of 68 and a passer rating of 78.6 when targeted.

Though his recent numbers aren’t close to the type of production he put forth during his Defensive Player of the Year campaign back in 2019, he should be seen as an upgrade at the position for nearly every team in the league. It’s a passing league and every team should look to acquire as much secondary talent as possible in order to combat the high powered offenses scattered across the NFL.

Gilmore is at his best when he locks up in man coverage on the outside. Not every defense utilizes man coverage a ton, mostly due to the fact that not every corner is capable of consistently manning up with receivers. If every team had a Stephon Gilmore, it would be a different story.

There are a number of cornerback-needy teams around the league that could really use a guy like Gilmore in their secondary. Here are three of the best fits for Gilmore as the free agency period winds down.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City had one of the worst defenses in all of football last season, especially against the pass. Steve Spagnolo’s group surrendered 4,273 yards through the air and 27 passing touchdowns in 2021.

They have some bright spots in their secondary, like cornerback Rashad Fenton, who finished the year as sixth-highest ranked corner in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But outside of Fenton, the team doesn’t have much to work with in their cornerback room. L’Jarius Sneed is a fine nickel corner, but they have a major hole to fill at the other outside corner spot.

The Chiefs could opt to roll with DeAndre Baker as their other starter on the outside, though the the former first-round pick has underperformed throughout most of his NFL career. Spagnolo is in desperate need of some veteran reliability in that position group and Stephon Gilmore could be the one to provide that.

Acquiring Gilmore would allow the Chiefs to play Sneed in his natural position in the slot, while giving Baker some more time to develop his game. The Chiefs blitzed on 28.1 percent of their defensive plays last season, the eighth-highest blitz rate in the NFL. Having reliable corners on the outside who can man up in blitzing situations is pivotal.

Gilmore and Fenton could form one of the better cornerback duos in the league next season, and they’ll certainly need all the secondary help they can get playing in the vaunted AFC West.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders already added to their cornerback group this offseason, acquiring Rock Ya-Sin in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts. They have a great nickel corner in place with Nate Hobbs, but there’s still a big vacancy at their CB2 spot.

They could look to the draft to fill this need, but adding a reliable veteran to pair with their ascending cornerback talent may be the best route to take. Gilmore would slot right in as the team’s outside corner opposite of Ya-Sin. The team tried to use Trayvon Mullen on the outside last season but he struggled throughout the year, ending the season with a PFF grade of 61.7.

Although Gilmore’s contract will probably be only one or two years in length, there’s a lot Ya-Sin and Hobbs could learn from the former Defensive Player of the Year in that time. While he’s certainly not at his peak anymore, there’s still a lot of value in his knowledge of the game. Acquiring Gilmore would not only fill a need for the Raiders, his mentorship of Ya-Sin and Hobbs could pay dividends down the line.

Like the Chiefs, Vegas will also have to deal with all the high powered offenses populating the AFC West right now. They already have the pass rushing department figured out with Maxx Crosby and company. Now their focus should be on their secondary, or else it could be a long year for the Raiders’ defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

Despite getting solid play from Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox last season, the Eagles are still in need of a solid CB2 to play opposite of Slay. Last year’s starter, Steven Nelson, became an unrestricted free agent this offseason and it doesn’t appear that the team has any interest in bringing him back.

The Eagles have done a fine job plugging some of the holes scattered throughout their defense this offseason. Haason Reddick and Kyzir White should help Jonathan Gannon’s group take a step forward next season, but unless they find a reliable cornerback to fill Nelson’s vacancy, their pass defense is going to continue to struggle.

Stephon Gilmore has reportedly been on the Eagles’ radar as of late. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Eagles were among three teams who have shown interest in Gilmore. And Gilmore’s wife, Gabrielle Gilmore, dropped this nugget on Twitter just a few weeks ago.

If the price is right for both parties, Gilmore would be a fine addition to the Eagles secondary and he’d fill arguably the biggest need facing the team.