After discussing deals and meeting with several teams that made the playoffs in the 2021 NFL season, cornerback Stephen Gilmore ended up signing with a team that just missed the playoffs in Week 18 last season joining the Colts. Well, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, the teams that pushed the hardest for the two-time All-Pro were playoff teams from last season: the Eagles, Raiders, Rams, and Bills.
Philadelphia “made a hard play” for the ten-year veteran in their efforts to replace departing starter Steve Nelson. Nelson started alongside darius slay in the Eagles’ secondary last season before signing with Houston this offseason. Without Nelson, the Eagles will likely count on Avonte Maddox to take another step in his development after being a strong rotational player for the past four seasons. They may turn to the 2022 NFL Draft to address the position, but, currently sitting at 15th, they would likely miss out on the Draft’s two most exciting cornerback prospects: Cincinnati’s Ahmed Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley. Those two are even less likely to fall to Philadelphia with Baltimore sitting one spot in front of them wanting to add some depth to the position after spending most of last year without starters Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
Las Vegas had an impressive showing from their cornerback group last year despite losing Damon Arnette due to multiple lawsuits and behavioral issues and only seeing Trayvon Mullen play five games. The Raiders Saw Casey Hayward, Nate Hobbsand Brandon Fayson step up and contribute to a strong defense. With Hayward going to Atlanta and Facyson joining Gilmore in Indianapolis, the Raiders made addressing the cornerback position a priority. Luckily, despite missing out on Gilmore, the Raiders made strong additions acquiring Rock Ya-Sin from the Colts in exchange for Yannick Ngakoue and signing Anthony Averett, who started much of last year for the Ravens with Peters and Humphrey injured. Ya-Sin and Averett will join a hopefully full-health Mullen and Hobbs to round out a solid cornerback room.
The Rams pursued Gilmore in an attempt to replace departing starter Dario Williams after he signed with the Jaguars this offseason. Los Angeles returns star Jalen Ramsey and role players David Long and Dont’e Deayon, but they likely would’ve preferred to add another bona fide starter opposite Gilmore. Unlike the Eagles, the Rams probably won’t turn to the Draft to fill this role. They’ve made an example in the league trading draft capital for experienced veterans and won a Super Bowl doing so. Not only is it more on brand for them to seek a replacement through the trade and free agent markets, but, even if they wanted to use the Draft, they don’t have a selection in the Draft until the 104th pick.
The Bills would’ve liked to bring Gilmore back home to Buffalo after losing starter Levi Wallace to free agency. Buffalo brings back plenty of contributors from last year in Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, dane jacksonand Sarah Neal, but bringing back Gilmore would’ve allowed them to slip him into the void left by Wallace without asking too much of Jackson or Neal to step up. The Bills could try to slot in another veteran free agent cornerback like joe haden, Kyle Fulleror Chris Harrisor, with a later first-round pick, they could try to take a flyer on one of the Draft’s less elite corners like Washington’s Trent McDuffie or Florida’s Kaiir Elam.
The targeting of Gilmore by these playoff teams speaks to his current value in the NFL. It shows something that teams contending to win it all believe he can add value to their defense. There’s also something to be said that these teams usually have a nearly complete roster, seeking Gilmore to fill in one of their last positions of need. While Gilmore may not be able to anchor a defense by himself on a fledgling defense, he can make strong contributions when surrounded by talented teammates. In Indianapolis, he’ll team up with Kenny Moore and Facyson to lead an otherwise inexperienced group of corners.