Carolina Panthers distance themselves from Stephon Gilmore speculation

It seems as if the Carolina Panthers are seeking alternatives.
Stephon Gilmore
Stephon Gilmore / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There was a great deal of excitement among the fanbase as news broke before the 2024 NFL Draft about the Carolina Panthers and Stephon Gilmore having a mutual interest in reuniting. The veteran cornerback left under a cloud in 2021 as those in power at the time opted to pay Donte Jackson instead, but it seemed like the door would remain open given the significant need to find another capable coverage presence to place opposite Jaycee Horn.

Now, it appears as if that window of opportunity is closing.

There's been nothing concrete to emerge despite the Panthers waiting until Day 3 of the draft to take a cornerback. Chau Smith-Wade has some decent athletic intangibles, but asking him to accumulate prominent reps immediately would be foolish. Many fans thought an announcement surrounding Gilmore's return would arrive soon after the draft, but it appears that might not be the case.

Carolina Panthers distance themselves from Stephon Gilmore links

When probed about the team's cornerback conundrum by Kyle Bailey of WFNZ - transcribed by USA Today Sports - general manager Dan Morgan seemed to distance himself from speculation linking the Panthers and Gilmore. His attention was on the guys already around, potential additions from the waiver wire, and names that haven't become public knowledge as yet.

“You wish you could fix everything little thing in one offseason. But sometimes, that’s not the reality. Now, we’re gonna try to do so. But sometimes, it doesn’t always work out the way that you want it to. But we’re really excited about some of the guys that we do have on the roster. Dane Jackson—we signed him in free agency. We re-signed Troy Hill. We have D’Shawn Jamison. We have [Dicaprio] Bootle. So there’s some guys that we are excited about. But that’s not to say we’re not gonna be aggressive to attack the waiver wire. We’re still in contact with some other corners that you guys may know about.”

This is disappointing when one considers Gilmore's close association with the region and the esteem in which he is held among the fanbase. However, there is no emotion or sentimental attachment to Morgan's decision-making process. If the money doesn't work, the Panthers were always going to seek alternatives.

Nothing has been completely dismissed, of course. The Panthers could go back to Gilmore later in the offseason if Morgan feels like it's the best possible option available. But there's a good chance the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year could go elsewhere if he receives an offer from a team with legitimate chances of contending.

The Panthers are taking some big risks on defense heading into the 2024 campaign. They've focused their hefty investment on the offensive side of the football to give quarterback Bryce Young a fighting chance of silencing his doubters. Aside from extending stud defensive lineman Derrick Brown, the new regime has shopped in the bargain basement for defensive reinforcements despite losing key figures such as Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu.

Carolina's cornerback room has been an underrated need for years. If Horn goes down with yet another injury complication this season, it'll be catastrophic. Morgan will probably add to the team's options before Week 1, but nobody deemed surplus to requirements elsewhere will have anything like Gilmore's capabilities despite his advancing years.

If this is the end of Gilmore's links to the Panthers, it's disappointing. At the same time, there needs to be an element of trust attached to Morgan's plans for long-term growth.

And as the front-office leader stated, this ungodly mess wasn't going to be fixed in one offseason.