When news broke on Wednesday morning that the New England Patriots plan to release former All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the speculation started flying about his potential destination. Specifically, those who follow the Green Bay Packers — Acme Packing Company included — began to speculate that the team could and should make a run at acquiring him.
However, with the news breaking in the morning, the Patriots have the remainder of the day to work out a trade and acquire some form of draft pick compensation rather than letting Gilmore simply walk free into free agency in the middle of the season. In fact, the leak could well be a strategy to get a potential trade partner to up its offer for Gilmore.
Since the news broke that Gilmore will be on the move, multiple reports have mentioned the Packers as having interest. Pro Football Focus reporter Doug Kyed reported that the Packers are “expected to show interest,” but one tenured writer is going even farther than that:
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
The identity of the person reporting this item is notable. Bedard is a well-established sportswriter, and he primarily covers the Patriots. Earlier in his career, though, he spent a lengthy stint as a beat writer covering the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. That puts him in a unique position to have connections with both teams as well as around the NFL, and the fact that he mentions the Packers as being not only involved but “the favorite” indicates that general manager Brian Gutekunst is likely trying to acquire the talented cornerback.
The biggest hurdle for the Packers to acquire Gilmore will be his contract. Gilmore is scheduled to make $7 million in base salary this season in addition to a half-million in per-game active roster bonuses. Prorated over 13 games in a 17-game season, that base salary would come out to approximately $5.35 million, which the Packers would need to squeeze into the salary cap calculation.
There will be few options for the Packers to do that, however, but one would be giving Gilmore a contract extension. Of course, that would involve a signing bonus, which would push salary cap money out into 2022 and beyond. The team’s 2022 cap is already stretched extremely thin due to the team’s extensive use of void years this offseason. Still, there would be ways for Russ Ball and company to maneuver the cap to bring Gilmore in for this year, which would further signify an all-in strategy for the team in 2021.
Adding to the intrigue is a report from NFL reporter Dov Kleiman, quoting Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. The report says that “Gilmore wants to play for the Packers.”
UPDATE: Here is the audio of Breer’s appearance on a Boston radio show where he says and elaborates on the above:
For a player who has spent his career in Buffalo and New England, playing in a cold-weather city clearly would be no problem for Gilmore. The Packers also represent one of the top Super Bowl contenders in the NFC, they are off to a 3-1 start, and they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback (at least for the rest of this season). Green Bay also would be highly motivated to acquire Gilmore, given the injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King in recent weeks. Other than Tampa Bay, there may be no better destination for a veteran player to go ring-chasing.
Stay tuned throughout the day Wednesday to see if anything comes of these reports.