Bill Belichick and the Carolina Panthers pull a fast one on Tom Brady

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Stephon Gilmore and Tom Brady
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Stephon Gilmore and Tom Brady /

Did Bill Belichick get one last laugh on Tom Brady by trading cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers?

The vultures were waiting to swoop after the New England Patriots confirmed they would be releasing star cornerback Stephon Gilmore unless a team came in with an acceptable trade offer before the 4 p.m deadline. This put plenty of Super Bowl contenders on red alert and according to multiple reports, the market for the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year would have been robust in free agency.

However, the Carolina Panthers had other ideas.

General manager Scott Fitterer wasn’t going to sit around on the off chance Gilmore chose a homecoming over another realistic shot at a ring in 2021. He struck a deal with Bill Belichick and the Patriots, giving up a sixth-round pick in 2023 to bring the veteran on board.

The move was met with jubilation from members of Carolina’s fanbase on social media. It was also another sign that times are changing with the new regime.

Their aggressiveness to get the Panthers right in the mix regarding a playoff spot has to be commended. Something that’s brought a renewed sense of optimism regarding the team’s chances this season and beyond.

As for Belichick, he played his hand well.

Forcing the issue with interested parties and getting some draft capital back in return for a player he was going to let go anyway was a shrewd move. Not only this, but it got one over on his former quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the process.

Carolina Panthers got one over on Tom Brady with the Stephon Gilmore trade.

There was growing speculation that the Buccaneers would be at the front of the queue to secure Gilmore’s services despite their lack of cap space, with Brady enjoying plenty of success with the All-Pro during their time together in New England.

Brady’s pull in getting prolific veterans to Tampa Bay is well documented and there was further evidence of this when they signed Richard Sherman recently.

Had the Bucs secured Gilmore, then things would have been even more difficult for teams looking to dethrone the current Super Bowl champions this season.

Not only did the Patriots and Belichick deny Brady a chance to recruit Gilmore, but they also sent the corner to an NFC South rival they’ll play twice over the final three games.

Belichick will refute any claims this came into the equation if asked. But it’s just an added bonus for a head coach who tasted defeat at the hands of Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 4.

What comes next for all parties is yet to be determined. However, there is little doubt that the arrival of Gilmore has enhanced Carolina’s prospects.

And if it is just a one-year rental, the Panthers are set to get a fifth-round compensation pick in return according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

The Patriots are in a period of transition, so extending Gilmore with little in the way of salary-cap space was almost impossible. Now, they’ve removed him from the equation.

Tampa Bay and Brady will be fine. One only has to look at their talent across the board to see that.

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But the addition of Gilmore would have tipped the scales further in their favor and thanks to the Panthers and Belichick, they must now seek alternative options.