Former Carolina Panthers CB lighting up Colts training camp

(Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via IMAGN Content Services) Stephon Gilmore
(Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via IMAGN Content Services) Stephon Gilmore /

Former Carolina Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore is lighting up training camp with the Indianapolis Colts after his free-agent move this spring

The Carolina Panthers faced a tough choice regarding Stephon Gilmore this offseason. After performing well in limited games following his high-profile trade from the New England Patriots, the veteran was looking for a new deal at the same time as Donte Jackson, which meant it would likely be one or the other given the financial implications at the time.

As it turned out, the Panthers got an extension done relatively early with Jackson, who penned a three-year, $35.18 million deal that came with an $11 million signing bonus and $16.75 million guaranteed. This was obviously a positive, even if it did mean the writing was on the wall for Gilmore despite general manager Scott Fitterer keeping the lines of communication open.

Gilmore drew interest in the market, which was expected for someone with such exceptional credentials. The South Carolina product opted to join the Indianapolis Colts on a two-year, $20 million deal with a $4 million signing bonus and $14 million guaranteed, which could end up being a steal providing the cornerback stays free of injury moving forward.

This provides Gilmore with an opportunity to assist a team poised to content in 2022. Something he wouldn’t have got on the Panthers considering their current state entering Year 3 of Matt Rhule’s tenure.

Former Carolina Panthers CB Stephon Gilmore has made a strong impression with the Colts

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has reportedly been making waves throughout training camp with the Colts, demonstrating his outstanding man coverage skills and putting a technical masterclass for those in attendance. Leaving had coach Frank Reich gushing in his praise following Sunday’s session.

"“He’s so quick to recognize routes, concepts. And then he has the ability to make plays on the ball and turn it over.”"

Panthers fans will be watching Gilmore’s progress with great interest. If he thrives with a full offseason under his belt and some on the team struggle, then the decision to go in a different direction is going to come under heavy scrutiny.

Fitterer is obviously keen to reward those drafted by the Panthers if they prove their worth. Jackson might have had problems staying healthy, but his consistency against the run and ability in coverage progressed well last season, and there is also the age factor to consider.

Perhaps Gilmore would have taken a discount to play closer to home. Something that he clearly enjoyed despite injury ending his campaign early.

When Gilmore was on the field, he turned in a series of outstanding displays. Most notably against the Atlanta Falcons, where his man coverage clinic on tight end phenom Kyle Pitts was nothing short of phenomenal.

As stated previously, the Colts are quietly fancied to come out of a less competitive AFC South division and make some postseason strides. Although much will depend on how much veteran quarterback Matt Ryan has left in the tank.

If Gilmore can perform up to his usual standard and put a prolonged run of games together, then the Panthers might end up regretting not keeping him around. Even if they hold out high hopes for a young, hungry cornerback group of their own with the return of No. 8 overall selection Jaycee Horn.

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