The surprising news of the day was the New England Patriots releasing cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The 2018 and 2019 first-team All-Pro’s release was a surprising development considering Gilmore’s lofty reputation and that he’s is currently on the PUP list.
The question is: could this be the manna from heaven for the Buccaneers after losing so many pieces in their secondary?
The Buccaneers’ cornerbacks are only temporarily on the shelf.
While it’s true that the Buccaneers are extremely short staffed in their secondary, such that they went out and signed Richard Sherman last week, their shortcoming should be somewhat temporary in duration. Sean Murphy-Bunting’s return date isn’t known. However, Bruce Arians said Monday that he’s still “a ways” from returning despite progressing with his elbow injury. That’s not particularly encouraging, but what is so was Carlton Davis III’s prognosis this week of a strained quad, which will keep him out 2-4 weeks. Arians also noted that Jamel Dean could start practicing again this week. Sherman should get his sea legs under him, and players will start to return over the next few weeks. Thus, the secondary should return to a much stronger form. As such, what appears to be a major hole could resolve itself significantly on its own.
Also, Gilmore isn’t eligible to return from the PUP list until after Week 6. As such, he wouldn’t be an immediate plug to help the Bucs’ depleted secondary.
Does Gilmore fit what the Bucs do?
I didn’t think much of this as far as an issue before. However, our colleague and former writer Evan Winter raised this issue earlier today:
You have three corners that can still be a big part of the present and future. Why sub that out for a guy coming off PUP who’s strengths don’t really fit the scheme?
— Evan Winter (@evan_winter) October 6, 2021
Even though the Bucs run a lot of two-deep zone, Todd Bowles will employ enough man to take advantage of a player with the blanketing man-to-man coverage ability of Gilmore. The NFL isn’t a one-trick pony as far as schemes. All teams mix it up, so even if Gilmore is a better man coverage corner, his strengths won’t be lost in any real way in the Bucs’ defense.
With all that being mused, it’s being reported that the Bucs have enough interest in him to “definitely investigate”, so it would appear the Buccaneers have enough faith in him as far as a fit to what they want to do.
So the question really comes down to…
Does the money make sense?
This is my major hangup. According to Josina Anderson, Gilmore is looking to get paid like the top cornerback he believes he is. As in the $15 million/year range:
My understanding is that SFA CB Stephon Gilmore who was set to earn $7M in base salary this season is looking to earn at least $15M a year on the open market now. There are several teams that can look to bolster their secondary with attrition already kicking in by week 5. https://t.co/ndlhoWFLjC
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 6, 2021
That’s a tough ask for teams in the middle of the season. Not being the capologist like the Buccaneers’ Mike Greenberg, I don’t have a path plotted out to make this kind of thing happen. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs have around $3.2 million in cap space:
Per the NFLPA, which generates a daily salary cap report, #Bucs have roughly $3.2 million in cap space. So signing Gilmore at least seems plausible if he's willing to take a 1-year deal for now.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) October 6, 2021
Thus, if he’s willing to take a one-year deal for a fraction of what he’s purportedly asking for, then you’ve got something. However, if he’s insistent on starting a bidding war and getting every dollar he can, there are teams that have significantly higher cap space that could more easily accommodate such a demand. According to overthecap.com, the Jaguars, Panthers, Eagles, and Broncos all have over $16 million in cap space. The Broncos and Panthers both have seen their rookie CBs Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn suffer injuries, with the latter’s being an extended absence, so both could be willing bidders with more room to offer a contract more palatable to Gilmore’s wallet.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past year – never count out Tom Brady.