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Report: Panthers Free Agent CB Stephon Gilmore Had a ‘Great Visit’ with the Colts; ‘Cautious Optimism’ that a Deal Gets Done

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Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

According to Jordan Schultz, Carolina Panthers free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore had a ‘great visit’ with the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday—and there’s ‘cautious optimism’ that a deal will ultimately get done:

The Colts appear ‘highly motivated’ to get a contract inked with the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 2x NFL First-Team All-Pro, and 5x NFL Pro Bowler—as team owner Jim Irsay sent a private jet to pick up Gilmore on Wednesday.

The 31 year old veteran cornerback is coming off a recovery season for the Panthers in which he recorded 16 tackles (15 solo), 2 interceptions, and 2 passes defensed during 9 games (8 starts).

Per PFF (subscription), Gilmore was their 11th best graded cornerback (ignoring the snap minimum) with a +77.1 overall grade. Specifically, Gilmore was targeted 22 times in coverage for 15 receptions (68.2% reception rate) and 155 total receiving yards (10.3 ypr. avg.), 2 touchdown receptions, 2 interceptions, and an opposing passer rating of 80.7.

A little older and a year removed from a torn quad injury, Gilmore may not be the same lockdown, ‘shadow the opposing team’s best wide receiver’, man-to-man cover cornerback that he was previously with the New England Patriots in his prime—as a bit of athleticism may have been lost.

That being said, he still has the smarts, technique, play recognition, awareness, and ball skills to excel as a #1 starting cornerback with the Colts—playing predominantly in a zone heavy ‘Cover 3’ scheme—which could extend his illustrious playing career.

As longtime elite NFL zone cornerback Richard Sherman showed throughout his own Hall of Fame caliber career, a defensive back doesn’t have to be the greatest athlete to thrive in the same or a similar scheme to Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s evolved ‘Cover 3’ defense.

Right now, the Colts feel like they’re a veteran cornerback short and could use Gilmore in an ‘Xavier Rhodes’ like role from recent years—except Gilmore would figure to be an upgrade from his fellow Pro Bowl predecessor in Indy.

Gilmore could serve as a high-end veteran starting caliber cornerback, mentor to the Colts’ younger defensive backs, and another secondary standout for what’s quickly becoming a star-studded defense with Darius Leonard, DeForest Buckner, Kenny Moore, and Yannick Ngakoue—and an ascending league unit overall.