49ers should entertain trade for Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have deep needs at cornerback this offseason, so making a trade run at the Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore would make some sense.

The San Francisco 49ers could potentially lose an awful lot of cornerbacks to NFL free agency this offseason.

Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson, Ahkello Witherspoon and Jamar Taylor are just some of the defensive backs the Niners stand to lose to the open market, and even fellow corner Emmanuel Moseley is a restricted free agent.

As of now, San Francisco has just four cornerbacks under contract for 2021:

  • Tim Harris
  • Ken Webster
  • Adonis Alexander
  • Mark Fields II

None of those exactly sound like bona fide starting options.

With a limited amount of cap space — $12.5 million, currently, according to Over the Cap — it’s going to be tough to either re-sign any of the starting members of the 49ers secondary from last season, and it will also hinder general manager John Lynch’s efforts to grab other corners hitting the free-agent market.

But there’s always the trade route.

One player who is rumored to be available is New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year after recording an NFL-best six interceptions that season en route to his second first-team All-Pro selection.

Last year, however, Gilmore suffered a quad injury that limited him to just 11 games, and the Pats defense managed to get by just fine without him.

And it wouldn’t seem as if head coach Bill Belichick would spend money to retain a veteran player of his caliber.

Why 49ers would benefit from Stephon Gilmore

At 30 years old, Gilmore might not be quite the player he once was early in his career, and last year’s efforts showed he might be slowing down a bit.

That said, a transition to a more zone-based defense could do Gilmore some good, helping him rely more on his instincts than sheer playmaking abilities at a more advanced age.

From a financial vantage point, it would be workable, too. True, the 49ers do have to undergo some roster jockeying this offseason to free up cap space. But if the Patriots were to trade Gilmore, it would cost the Niners $8.9 million in what would be the final year of the four-time Pro Bowler’s current contract.

Notably less than the $10.05 million San Francisco ultimately paid out to Sherman last year.

OK, so why wouldn’t the 49ers simply draft Sherman’s replacement instead?

That should be part of the plan, yes. But one has to account for the fact the NFL Draft is a total gamble. And even high-profile defensive backs often struggle to transition from the collegiate ranks to the pros considering the notable jump in complex coverage schemes and opposing wide receivers’ exceptional abilities. Rare are the corners who step in on day one and contribute right away.

And that’s what the Niners will need in 2021. Especially considering their current depth and the lack of proven starters currently on the roster.

Like Sherman, Gilmore could offer San Francisco’s rebuilding secondary proven mentoring while helping the team adjust from the post-Sherman era.

Just what Belichick and the Patriots would ask in return is anyone’s guess, perhaps a second- or third-round pick, which might be a lot.

But if Gilmore plays at even a modest percentage of what he was just two years ago, it would be a huge boost to the 49ers defense.

light. Must Read. 49ers bulk up secondary in full Round 1 mock NFL Draft