Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Patriots trade CB Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers

Oct 6, 2021 at 9:08 AM--

Update: The New England Patriots have reportedly traded cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. That ends any discussion of his release and potential signing by the 49ers. The Panthers reportedly acquired the Pro Bowl cornerback in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick.

The original article discussing whether or not the San Francisco 49ers could afford Gilmore is below.

OverTheCap.com has the San Francisco 49ers listed as having about $4.2 million in salary-cap space. Some of that is earmarked for any necessary in-season transactions, though.

The New England Patriots are reportedly parting ways with disgruntled Pro Bowl and All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He is on the physically-unable-to-perform list following quad surgery in December but is expected to be recovered in the coming weeks. Needless to say, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be in high demand.

Josina Anderson reported that Gilmore, who was slated to earn a base salary of $7 million this season, seeks a new contract with an annual salary of at least $15 million. That's not enough to make him the highest-paid corner in football, but it does place him within the top eight.

Surely that eliminates the 49ers, yes? Maybe not. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com believes San Francisco, along with most of the league, can find a way to fit Gilmore in their budget if they choose to be creative with a contract. Of course, some of that depends on when the cornerback makes a decision.

"If he signed next week, the team would be required to pay him for 13 weeks of the season," wrote Fitzgerald. "To make it a clean cap number, a team would pay a base salary of $1.15386M, which would prorate out to $833,333, along with a $10 million signing bonus. Of that $10 million, just $2 million would count in 2021, and $8 million would be pushed to 2022 if the contract voids before an extension is signed. That would bring the all-in charge for 2021 to $2.83 million.

"If he waits an additional week, the team would be on the hook for 12 weeks of the salary. Here, you would pay a base rate of $1.2 million along with a $9.2 million signing bonus. That would be a cap charge of $2.64 million with $7.36 million being pushed to 2022."

Fitzgerald lists the 49ers, along with the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, and several others, as the teams that can make something like the above work. Of course, he also lists the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, and Washington Football Team as organizations that could add Gilmore without jumping through any hoops when it comes to fitting him under the respective salary caps.

The Buccaneers and Packers have been named as teams that could pursue Gilmore.

The 49ers lost starter Jason Verrett for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL. Josh Norman missed Week 4 due to a lung contusion. Slot corner K'Waun Williams sustained a calf injury during Week 3 and was expected to miss multiple games.

With his choice of suitors likely on the horizon, it may come down to whichever teams can afford his hefty salary demands while also being a contender.

"San Francisco has signed veterans like Norman, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Buster Skrine in recent weeks," wrote Jacob Camenker of the Sporting News while looking at Gilmore's potential landing spots. "Why wouldn't they give Gilmore a shot if he's willing to come to the team?

"If Gilmore is looking for an easy path to start, the 49ers are one of his best options. That said, the 49ers sit at just 2-2 and play in one of the NFL's toughest divisions, so he would have to decide if he believes they can contend for a playoff spot."

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