By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Stephon Gilmore once won a Super Bowl while sharing a locker room with Tom Brady. It’s probably time for him to give it another whirl.
The former All-Pro corner and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year was released on Wednesday, ending a drawn-out contract dispute which Gilmore appears to have ultimately won. The team advanced him some money on his 2020 salary, likely with some promise — firm, light, or somewhere in between — that the 2021 salary would eventually get taken care of. It never did, Gilmore nursed a quadriceps injury, and now he’s gone, free to sign with any team he wants.
And frankly, it would be weird if he doesn’t want any team other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And it would be doubly weird if that feeling weren’t reciprocated by the defending champs.
For as much as Tampa celebrated “running it back” with all 22 starters from last year’s Super Bowl returning to the team this year, the Bucs have had a struggle at cornerback this year. They were so thin at the position that they signed Richard Sherman off the street last week and then started him in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football, in a game where he played 98 percent of the Bucs’ defensive snaps.
That was also a game where the Bucs lost starting cornerback Carlton Davis to what looked like a rather severe quadriceps injury of his own.
The Bucs need a corner.
And Gillmore needs a home.
It almost makes too much sense.
According to Adam Schefter, the market for Gilmore “is expected to be robust,” with “multiple teams” expected to be interested in acquiring his services. Josina Anderson said that Gilmore “still wants to be paid like a top corner,” which makes sense, as the $7 million he was due to make this year was at the root of his undoing in Foxboro.
Yet considering that seemingly no teams were willing to give up anything in a trade to secure the 31-year-old cornerback who’s coming off quadriceps surgery and hasn’t played a down in 2021, that day to cash in is not now. That day can only come if he returns to the field, plays some high-profile football games, and plays at the level that he believes he is still capable of playing. If he can do that, he’ll get some moderate-to-severe coinage in the upcoming offseason, likely the last big deal of his career.
And do you know who plays some high-profile games this year? That would of course be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They have three games remaining in the 4:25 p.m. ET national window, plus a pair of prime-time games in the second half of the season. After that, another postseason run awaits.
With a solid performance for a team like Tampa, the whole football world will be reminded of what Gilmore can do. Joining up with Brady might just get him another Super Bowl, and we’ve seen scores of teams over the years overpay for anyone involved with a championship run.
Stephon and Tom teaming up again in Tampa just makes too much sense.
UPDATE: It turns out, the report of Gilmore’s release was premature. The Patriots ended up trading Gilmore to the Panthers for a sixth-round pick. That robs Gilmore of the opportunity to sign wherever he wanted to sign, but more importantly, it robs us of watching this all-too-perfect reunion play out on Sundays in Tampa. Sad.