Packers have Financial Hurdles to Overcome to Add Stephon Gilmore

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore reportedly is holding out of mandatory minicamp.LEDE 1
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore reportedly is holding out of mandatory minicamp.LEDE 1 /

The big news on this Wednesday morning is that the New England Patriots are expected to release former All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. And it just so happens that the Green Bay Packers cornerback room could use a boost.

Kevin King has missed the last two games with a concussion, while Jaire Alexander’s status in the coming weeks is unknown after he suffered a shoulder injury against Pittsburgh.

This leaves the Packers with four healthy cornerbacks on the active roster at the moment, and outside of Eric Stokes, who has shown a lot of promise, Chandon Sullivan and Isaac Yiadom have had their issues in coverage while Shemar Jean-Charles is an inexperienced rookie. Kabion Ento, who is on the practice squad, also has no regular-season NFL experience.

There’s no question that once healthy, Gilmore would provide a boost to this secondary. He has been on the New England PUP list to start the season with a quad injury.

The 31-year-old Gilmore is a four-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and 2019 defensive player of the year. He has a career completion rate of 54 percent when targeted, 27 interceptions, 81 pass breakups, and a passer rating of just 75.8 when thrown at, according to PFF ($$).

In his most recent 2020 season, Gilmore was targeted 42 times, allowing a completion rate of 64 percent and 13.1 yards per catch. He also tallied an interception and two pass breakups—although he played in only 632 defensive snaps after totaling over 1,000 each of the previous three seasons.

While an addition of this magnitude is always enticing, we always have to discuss the financials, which for the Green Bay Packers could be a big deterrent.

What financial hurdles to the Green Bay Packers have to overcome to land Stephon Gilmore?

According to Josina Anderson, Gilmore is looking to make at least $15 million per year on the open market, and that’s a range he could likely earn, given so many teams are in need of an upgrade at cornerback.

When it comes to the Packers, they have $7.2 million in available cap space per Over the Cap. On a one-year deal, Green Bay could probably find a way to squeeze Gilmore in under the cap. However, two issues arise.

The first being that this would require Gilmore to take a one-year deal and hitting the open market again in 2022–something that he may have no interest in.

And two, a one-year deal could exhaust a good portion of Green Bay’s remaining cap space, leaving them with very little to operate with over the remainder of the season if other injuries occur. Outside of an extension for Davante Adams, they don’t have many — if any — cap-saving moves left in their bag of tricks.

If Gilmore has more interest in a multi-year deal and the security that comes with it, that may also take the Green Bay Packers out of the running.

We all know how dire their cap situation is in 2022, with them being $33.7 million over the cap at the moment, and adding another relatively big contract to the books would only further complicate things.

Green Bay also has several of their own players that will need new contracts in the coming year or two, including Davante Adams (maybe?), Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, and others, which is going to take up more of that precious cap space as well. And as we all know, historically, the Packers prioritize their own over other team’s free agents.

There are, of course, ways to create cap space through veteran cuts, contract restructures, as well as extensions, and even without Gilmore on the books, the Green Bay Packers will be active in this area next offseason.

Another avenue to acquiring Gilmore would be via trade, which is an option that is reportedly picking up momentum. But again, it would take some financial gymnastics from the Green Bay Packers.

As cap guru Ken Ingalls would detail, Gilmore would account for $5.67 million against the 2021 cap—leaving the Packers with very little room to operate for the remainder of the season, as mentioned above.

Ken would go on to say that the team would have to work out an extension or restructure his deal to lower the 2021 cap hit. If Gilmore does in fact want $15 million per year, that further complicates things. Or perhaps the Packers would choose to restructure the contract by adding voided years — or essentially dummy years — to to Gilmore’s deal to create more cap space in 2021.

This essentially pushes any cap charges saved in 2021 to 2022, but is more cost effective from a cap standpoint than what an extension would be. But the caveat here, as Ingalls notes, is that Gilmore would have to agree to this, something he may not be willing to do.

Now having said all of that, I get that my tone is skeptical, but this isn’t to say that Green Bay can’t or won’t add Gilmore—anything is possible. However, there’s always a lot more to these decisions than simply saying the Packers could use some help at cornerback.