3 key departures the Carolina Panthers missed most in 2022

(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) Haason Reddick
(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) Haason Reddick /
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Carolina Panthers
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) Stephon Gilmore /

Stephon Gilmore – Former Carolina Panthers CB

Among the biggest conundrums facing the Carolina Panthers before free agency in 2022 centered on two out-of-contract cornerbacks. Stephon Gilmore and Donte Jackson were on the lookout for new deals, and it was unlikely both would be retained considering the resources needed to strengthen the offensive line.

Gilmore got the chance to play closer to home following his trade from the New England Patriots. Injuries restricted his contribution overall, but he looked every bit the All-Pro when on the field over a nine-game span.

This wasn’t enough to convince Matt Rhule, who went with Jackson’s youth and supposed upside, which allowed Gilmore to test free agency. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year signed for the Indianapolis Colts and although the team struggled, he enjoyed a tremendous campaign.

The one-time South Carolina college standout gave up just 56.2 percent of targets and a 74.0 passer rating – his lowest since 2018. Gilmore made countless big plays in key moments, which played a leading role in his eye-catching 79.1 grade from Pro Football Focus.

As for Jackson, his inconsistencies in coverage were well documented. The often-injured cornerback was dealt another cruel blow with a torn Achilles late in the campaign, which means a long road back is guaranteed in the coming months.