Analyst throws weight behind Stephon Gilmore's return to Carolina Panthers

It seems unlikely, but not completely out of the question.
Stephon Gilmore
Stephon Gilmore / Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Much has been made about the Carolina Panthers' need for more cornerback help in time for the upcoming season. One name above all else has been linked, but it's been all quiet on the Stephon Gilmore front since the 2024 NFL Draft concluded.

Dan Morgan stated he would potentially reach back out to Gilmore's representatives depending on what additions they made from the college ranks. Only Chau Smith-Wade came into the fold, but expecting him to fill outside coverage responsibilities would be asking for trouble at this early stage of his development.

Despite large sections of the fanbase clamoring for Gilmore's return, Morgan distanced himself from the speculation recently. He said the waiver wire might be his preferred option and there are also names under consideration that haven't become public knowledge.

Carolina Panthers named 'best fit' for Stephon Gilmore

Nothing has been completely dismissed, but the possibility of the former first-round pick out of South Carolina making a triumphant return to the franchise he left under a cloud in 2021 is diminishing by the day.

That didn't stop Matt Bowen of ESPN from fanning the flames. The analyst named the Panthers as the best possible fit for Gilmore, who could start immediately and potentially provide an upgrade on their current options aside from Jaycee Horn.

"Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has three corners to start in his nickel sets with Jaycee Horn and Dane Jackson on the boundary and Troy Hill in the slot. But there's a lack of proven depth here, and the availability concerns with Horn are real. He played in six games last season and 22 over his first three pro seasons. With [Stephon] Gilmore, the Panthers would be adding an established veteran who can play outside or at the nickel spot. And even though he will turn 34 years old this season, Gilmore still has the physical coverage traits and savvy technique to find the ball. Last season in Dallas, Gilmore had two interceptions and 10 pass breakups."

The move makes a ton of sense in a simple world. Unfortunately, the NFL is rarely that cut and dried.

Gilmore might want to play closer to home, but it doesn't seem as if he's willing to take any sort of discount at this late stage of his playing career after performing relatively well for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023. The Panthers are being a lot shrewder with their money these days under Morgan and Brandt Tilis. If those in power feel like the player's demands don't fit within their budget, they'll probably seek alternatives.

The presence of former Gamecocks across the Panthers is glaring. Horn said there's room for one more when asked about the prospect of Gilmore coming back. He also acknowledged that's above his pay grade and up to influential figures within the front office.

The one-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is too good not to find work before the campaign despite his advancing years. Although that might not be on the Panthers, Morgan must do something to bolster the cornerback room to give Ejiro Evero's defense a fighting chance when the regular season arrives.

There's always going to be hope among the fans while Gilmore remains on the free-agent market. But optimism is dwindling about this scenario becoming a reality despite ongoing speculation to the contrary.