Early Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news that the New England Patriots would be releasing CB Stephon Gilmore. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year could still be traded before the release becomes official at 4:0 p.m. ET. But for now, he’s expected to be free to sign with any team by the end of the day.

Per NFL Insider Josina Anderson, the Bucs are expected to be one of the teams in pursuit of the shutdown cornerback.

So could the Bucs sign Gilmore? Do they have the cap space? Is he a fit in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ scheme? How would his presence impact the team’s current situation?

The Health of Gilmore

Gilmore missed the last two games of the 2020 season with a partially torn quad. The injury required offseason surgery, and Gilmore has yet to play in 2021 after landing on the PUP list to begin the season. Per NFL rules, Gilmore was free to come off the PUP list after Week 6. By the time a new team brings him in and acclimates him to their defense, Week 7 would be the soonest he could probably play anyway.

As long as there are no lingering effects from Gilmore’s injury, this shouldn’t impact his market as a free agent. According to NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, Gilmore’s quad has healed just fine.

Now, does that mean Gilmore is ready to come back 100 percent healthy in Week 7? Probably not. He’ll need time to get back to the speed of the game after missing all of training camp and the last eight games going back to the 2020 season. In fact, Gilmore will have spent less time on a football field since last year than recently-signed Bucs cornerback Richard Sherman. At 31 years old, that’s a key factor in his market. Because of the element of unknown in how he’ll return from the injury, Gilmore could be looking at mostly one-year (really, half-season) rental contracts rather than multi-year offers.

The Cap Situation

The Bucs have a little over $3 million in cap space, but I only see that as a concern if Gilmore doesn’t want to sign with a contender. If he does, he’s probably not that concerned about money. He’s concerned about playing time and a chance to shine in the right scheme before cashing in next offseason. Right now, money is tight for most teams. Gilmore would be a lot smarter to play half-a-season in the right situation, rather than chase a long-term deal for less than he’ll get this offseason.

Because of that, I actually don’t see the cap space as a huge obstacle, if the Bucs are serious about signing Gilmore – and if Gilmore wants a realistic chance at winning a ring. They have to do some small restructuring to make a little space, but it’s doable to match offers from most other competitors. It all depends on what Gilmore is looking for.

If he’s content with a half-season deal and a shot at ring for relatively cheap, the Bucs are a better spot than most. Even if Gilmore wants a big, multi-year contract, the Bucs could do it by using voidable years. That’s highly unlikely to happen, I’m just presenting the possibility. If Gilmore wants a pay day, the Bucs, and most contenders, will have a hard time making it work in-season without void years. I doubt the Bucs are going to do that.

The Roster Situation

This is where it gets tricky. First, we don’t know yet how long Carlton Davis III is out. If his quad injury is season-ending, then a Gilmore signing might make sense. But if Davis could be back this season, even by the playoffs, I’m not sure I understand signing Gilmore. By the time he would be fully acclimated and back to 100 percent, Davis could be back. And Jamel Dean will likely be back this week too. Even Sean Murphy-Bunting is making progress and seems likely to return at some point this season, per Bruce Arians.

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore Bucs

CB Stephon Gilmore Photo Credit – USA TODAY Sports

If everyone returns at some point, how does Tampa Bay make it work? Right now, Davis and Sherman would be the starting outside cornerbacks, and Murphy-Bunting would start in the nickel. Murphy-Bunting could also start outside and Sherman would play left corner in nickel when the third-year corner moves to the slot. Either way, those would be your top three cornerbacks, with Dean and Cockrell as the top reserves. It’s a crowded room, but this is if Davis returns this season.

For now, Sherman, Dean and Cockrell are set to start Week 5, with Pierre Desir as the fourth cornerback. Cockrell has played well since a suspect Week 1, and Sherman and Desir are trustworthy veterans. I don’t think the Bucs cornerback situation is dire right now, unless the new signees can’t play. Also, Gilmore might not be ready to play for several weeks. At which point, Murphy-Bunting could be back, even if Davis isn’t. This isn’t a seamless scheme fit for Gilmore like it was (in some ways) for Sherman. More about that below.

If the Bucs were guaranteed to get 2019 Gilmore, obviously you make the move. But Gilmore fell off some last year, and is now 31 years old. Tack on the injury, and there’s real risk here. Especially considering Gilmore likely won’t come as cheap as Sherman did.

The Scheme Fit

The best years of Stephon Gilmore’s career have come as a predominantly man-coverage heavy cornerback in New England. In fact, one of the reasons Buffalo moved on from him in 2017 is because of the scheme fit. Now, Gilmore has improved his all-around game as a cornerback since then. He can definitely play in zone, and the Bucs are one of the zone-heaviest teams in the NFL. But Gilmore is a better man coverage cornerback, so the scheme fit is a little wonky.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Bowles is going to play more man coverage moving forward. He did in the playoffs, and it was extremely successful. After the pass defense struggled over the first two weeks, Bowles has played more man coverage in Weeks 3 and 4. So there’s the possibility that he would adapt to his personnel if he had Gilmore.

The scheme fit isn’t so bad as to prevent the move from happening, but it is a factor to consider. The Bucs already have a room full of corners that fit what they want to do, so they probably aren’t willing to extend themselves too much for Gilmore.

The Conclusion

Although the Bucs will definitely look into signing Gilmore, I don’t see it happening. Nothing surprises me with G.M. Jason Licht anymore, but Tampa Bay’s cornerback room is stocked with depth after their recent moves. They still want to leave space for their young corners to return to health and play, and Gilmore’s presence would detract from those opportunities. Plus, if he’s looking for a big pay day, that’ll end the conversation before it begins.

The Bucs face a 13-game slate of mostly weak opposing quarterbacks to finish the regular season. If they can stay on track, hopefully their cornerback room is at full strength in January. Gilmore would be a nice signing, but the odds feel stacked against this one happening. In fact, he’ll probably get traded to a team with more cap space than the Bucs before the 4:00 p.m. deadline.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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eaustinyoung
eaustinyoung
7 months ago

I said it on the other post: Gilmore can’t have his cake and eat it too. If he wants a contending team, no one is going to give him $12M-$15M. He’d have to go to a decent playoff team who has the cap money (Carolina comes to mind). If he wants a ring and contract, he will have to take less for a TB or KC spot. Because none of the top teams can pay him that money for half a season.

eaustinyoung
eaustinyoung
Reply to  eaustinyoung
7 months ago

And I was correct about Carolina.

Ja'crispy
Ja'crispy
7 months ago

We have been hit with the injury bug too much this season to not sign Gilmore. You can never have too many good players. Even if none of the injuries are season ending im trying hard to sign him if im Jason Licht. The Bucs are 32nd team against the pass this year. That right there should be enough reason to go get him. Also we dont know when our CBs are gunna be ready to come back. If we want to contend with the Rams, Packers, and Cardinals come playoff time we need the best cornerback room possible. Stephon… Read more »

MWD
MWD
Reply to  Ja'crispy
7 months ago

Agree 💯

bucballer
bucballer
7 months ago

I say only sign him if u NEED him and it is a Buccaneer friendly partial season contract. I trust BA and Bowles and their decision on this matter. They know what their injuries look like and when certain players may or may not be available.

MWD
MWD
7 months ago

If he’s willing to work with our cap situation into a deal that works for both sides- make it happen and sign him!

Rob
Rob
7 months ago

Great article, Jon. Always spot on with the analysis. You may want to update the last part about him getting traded to another team before the deadline tho….

pinkstob
pinkstob
7 months ago

I’m going to ignore the money aspect of this and focus on the player on field since apparently it isn’t an issue for the Bucs to create the cap space for Gilmore. Independent of which scheme the Bucs deploy more often, these defensive players play better in man coverage. Gilmore earned his bones in the NFL playing man coverage and Sherman earned his bones playing outside in a Cover 3, plain and simple. Gilmore and Sherman fell off in 2020, but Gilmore is younger and a better scheme fit for us. I don’t think highly of C. Davis III so… Read more »

Dude
Dude
7 months ago

Nothing would surprise me with the Bucs and their goal to repeat at this point. This is the only reason Brady is here and the Bucs know it. I honestly think the Bucs and Brady want to do a three-peat before a curtain show, and that’s been the plan after getting the first one. In saying that, I think they will stop at nothing to get the second one done first. As so, I would be surprised if the Bucs do not sign Gilmore. If Gilmore doesn’t want to come to the Bucs for less money, that would really show… Read more »

twspin
twspin
7 months ago

Its hard repeating as NFL champs. You get even the worse teams best efforts. Make no mistake, Our defensive secondary has sucked..beyond holy hell thus far. So I say..Pay the Man if possible. We are not going to outscore everybody every Sunday. Sooner or later our D is gonna have to stand tall.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
7 months ago

Sign Gilmore and dont think twice about this. Who cares about SMB and Dean when neither have played well even when healthy. They got hot in the playoffs but I’d argue that was more due to the pressure than them actually taking some massive step forward as evident by their production this year. Bowles will put Gilmore in man on #2’s and use Sherm with help to shadow #1’s. IF Carlton comes back then our top 3 should be Gilmore, Davis and Sherm in no particular order. If SMB and Dean get healthy and cant find their way on the… Read more »

Eddie
Eddie
Reply to  stlbucsfan
7 months ago

Right on, sign Gilmore, Tom better get on the phone to convince him

cozart
cozart
Reply to  stlbucsfan
7 months ago

Couldn’t agree more, just wish the organization felt the same way…

bveghte
bveghte
7 months ago

PR — let’s please stop pretending that we have a “full CB room”. WE HAVE THE WORST PASS DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE. And that was just as true in the first quarter of the Dallas game before Murphy Bunting got injured as it is now. Murphy Bunting and Jamel Dean probably have PFF grades that put them in the range of being backup quality players. Both have had three years to prove themselves and haven’t. Murphy got a few intereceptions in the playoffs, which shows promise, but has been bad the rest of his career. We were terrible against the… Read more »

Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith
7 months ago

The defense overall needs to play better and smarter. Sherman was a good signing, now everyone else needs to step up their game.

Buc-Up
Buc-Up
7 months ago

Too late …Panthers got him for 2023 6th round pick.

Spitfire
Spitfire
7 months ago

I would obviously take any good player, but I honestly feel like we will be healthy after the bye and having Davis, SMB, Dean and Sherman will be Amazing for our backfield alone. So only if it makes sense.

mark2001
mark2001
7 months ago

Frankly, I would have been much more concerned if he had gone to the Packers, or the Cowboys…. or KC. Carolina? Probably won’t effect us that much.

fredster
fredster
7 months ago

If it’s 1 year deal and good deal for Bucs I’d say hell yes do it! SMB and Dean are huge question marks healthy or not. Davis been banged up. It’s all about repeating right now while we have this team together so yes you go all in and CB is only area this team is extremely weak.