Stephon Gilmore update adds extra intrigue to Carolina Panthers draft plans

The lines of communication remain open.
Stephon Gilmore
Stephon Gilmore / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Even though fans have firmly set their sights on the 2024 NFL Draft, there's one potential free-agent acquisition that the Carolina Panthers' long-suffering support is eagerly awaiting. Stephon Gilmore is reportedly keen on making a return to the franchise despite leaving under a cloud in 2021, with former college and high school teammate Jadeveon Clowney revealing that interest could potentially be mutual.

The Panthers reached out to Gilmore earlier this offseason about potentially joining under the new regime. Any animosity the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year held towards the organization probably evaporated when Matt Rhule and Scott Fitterer were mercifully removed from their respective duties. Dan Morgan is doing things with more purpose, meaning this is a project worth being part of once again.

It's been all quiet since Clowney's revelations about Gilmore's desire to potentially end his prolific career closer to home. Morgan provided some additional clarification on the topic when speaking to reporters alongside head coach Dave Canales during their pre-draft media availability.

Carolina Panthers could sign Stephon Gilmore after the 2024 NFL Draft

Morgan acknowledged that the door remains open for a deal to be struck based on comments via USA Today Sports. However, the new general manager added that the Panthers and Gilmore's representatives won't touch base again until after the draft.

"Yeah, we’re gonna leave the door open there. We’re still gonna stay in communication and after the draft, we’ll circle back and kinda see where it goes from there.”

This probably indicates that the Panthers want to see if they can get a talented young cornerback from the college ranks before taking things further with Gilmore. Many analysts project Morgan to target the position relatively early in the process. But even if those in power do land a capable performer who can assist immediately, that shouldn't close the possibility entirely on the former South Carolina standout and Rock Hill native re-joining the ranks.

Gilmore's experience would be invaluable to a secondary that lost the likes of Donte Jackson, Vonn Bell, Jeremy Chinn, and C.J. Henderson this offseason. He's firmly in the twilight of his sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Fame career, but his production last season seemed to suggest there are a couple of good years left before the time comes to walk away.

The allure of being around family is important to Gilmore. It proved to be the tipping point behind Clowney's decision. But much will also depend on the money involved when push comes to shove.

Another big selling point for Clowney was the fact he got a two-year deal. While it's unlikely Gilmore gets anything similar, such an accomplished performer won't exactly be willing to accept the veteran minimum either. It's a fine line that could prove crucial during negotiations. But if anyone can make the money work without jeopardizing future financial flexibility, it's Brandt Tilis.

Morgan's got a lot on his plate right now. Free agency has been put to one side as he finalizes his draft board and goes through every potential draft scenario that the Panthers might encounter. If those in power feel like more is needed, they'll go back to Gilmore, although they're unlikely to be alone in that regard.

Watch this space…