The New England Patriots have traded one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Stephon Gilmore, to the Carolina Panthers in return for a sixth-round draft pick.
ESPN initially reported the news before the 31-year-old confirmed he was leaving the Patriots in a tweet on Wednesday morning. “We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements,” Gilmore wrote. “… To [team owner] Mr Kraft, the coaches, and the organization thank you for providing me with this platform and allowing me to be part of greatness. Most of all I want to thank my teammates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind.”
The Patriots are jut $54,000 under the league’s salary cap and were attempting to restructure the cornerback’s contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season. The 31-year-old is sidelined with a quad injury but is due to come back after week six of the season.
He won the 2019 defensive player of the year, has been a Pro Bowler for the last three seasons and could have attracted interest from the likes of the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are in desperate need of help at cornerback.
However, it was the Panthers – another team in need of help in the secondary – who picked him up. Their first-round pick, Jaycee Horn, has a broken foot. The Panthers have got off to a better than expected start to the season under new quarterback Sam Darnold and are second in the NFC South with a 3-1 record. Gilmore was also raised in Rock Hill, close to the Panthers’ headquarters. The team plan to move their facilities to the town in the next few years.