INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are kicking the tires on a guy who was the NFL’s best defensive player back in 2019.
If Stephon Gilmore can give the Colts some of that Defensive Player of the Year ability, now three years later, it will be another critical, and needed, piece in trying to improve the Indy pass defense.
On Friday morning, ESPN first reported that the Colts were signing Gilmore to a two-year deal worth $23 million ($14 million guaranteed).
Gilmore, who will turn 32 in September, comes to the Colts after a brief stop with Carolina last year. Prior to that, Gilmore played in New England (2017-20) and Buffalo (2012-16). Gilmore was the 10th overall pick in 2012.
As long as health cooperates—which is never a given for a 32-year-old cornerback—Gilmore should give the Colts something that was up in the air prior to his signing.
With the departures of Rock Ya-Sin (traded to Las Vegas) and Xavier Rhodes (still a free agent), the Colts didn’t have obvious answers to the outside cornerback spots. Ideally, Kenny Moore is playing his best self lined up in the slot.
Before the Gilmore signing, free agent signing Brandon Facyson (13 career starts) figured to be an outside option. Isaiah Rodgers (1 career start) is another potential name.
But Gilmore’s arrival should put an end to any doubt as to the team’s top outside corner.
One aspect to Gilmore’s game that probably made him more of a factor in Indy was how new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley wants to employ coverage. The Colts are expected to play a matchup type zone look, with more man-to-man principles used, compared to the Matt Eberflus era. Gilmore has thrived out on an island in his career, so he would seem to fit the change on the back end.
Health is something to note with Gilmore.
Quad and groin injuries have limited Gilmore to 19 games played (14 missed) in the last two years. Gilmore played more than 65 percent of the defensive snaps in just 2 of the 8 games he played with Carolina last year.
Contract/injury questions were a big reason why Gilmore was traded for a 6th round pick at last year’s trade deadline.
The Colts will hope that Gilmore’s lower body injuries can subside, in the hope he gives this defense a puzzle piece that wasn’t already in the fold.
When healthy and playing at his normal level, Gilmore offers something that would be the perfect complement to a Moore in the slot, the ball-hawking Darius Leonard at linebacker and a pass rush group reinforced with Yannick Ngakoue off the edge.
According to Pro Football Reference, Gilmore allowed a 68 percent completion percentage last year (98th among corners) and a passer rating of 78.6 (38th among corners).
Those numbers, particularly the completion percentage, have risen as he’s reached the age of 30.
If Gilmore can get back to full health though, he would be an upgrade over what the Colts have had as their top outside cornerback in recent years.
The Colts would welcome a type of season from Gilmore that they got from Rhodes (age 30) in 2020.
And with how loaded any team’s schedule is at the wideout position, trying to see if such a player can get back to playing at an upper echelon level in a pass happy league makes plenty of sense.