The Carolina Panthers have moved quickly to sign four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore in a trade with the New England Patriots, according to widespread reports.

It was said on Wednesday that the Patriots were releasing Gilmore, although that move was not to be made official until 16:00 EST.

And the Panthers swiftly stepped in to secure a bargain trade, sending a 2023 sixth-round pick to New England in return for a star in the secondary, who failed to come to terms on a restructured contract in Foxborough.

Gilmore, who was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, spent four seasons with the Pats before being kept on the sidelines so far this year with a quad injury.

He was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list in Week 6 and is expected to recover in the coming weeks.

Gilmore brings proven quality to the 3-1 Panthers, having been the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 when he co-led the league in interceptions with six, including two pick sixes.

However, the highlight of his Pats career, having left the Buffalo Bills where he was the 10th overall pick in 2012, was the interception of Jared Goff that clinched New England's 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at the end of the 2018 campaign.

Carolina have had only three total takeaways so far this year, although first-round pick Jaycee Horn is on injured reserve after suffering a broken foot.

Horn, whose place Gilmore will take, has a single interception through three games in his rookie season, having had two in seven games at South Carolina last year.

The New England Patriots have released four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore in a stunning move.

ESPN's Adam Schefter on Wednesday reported the release, which was later confirmed by the two-time first-team All-Pro.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Gilmore wrote: "It is with mixed emotions that I announce my goodbye to this great fanbase.

"We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements.

"Thank you for supporting this Rock Hill kid and allowing him to achieve his NFL dreams.

"To Mr. Kraft, the coaches, and the organisation thank you for providing me with this platform and allowing me to be a part of this greatness.

"Most of all I want to thank my team-mates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind.

"Those moments on and off the field will never be forgotten."

Gilmore was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list in Week 6, having been kept on the sidelines with a quad injury.

He is expected to recover in the coming weeks but a failure to come to terms on a restructured contract means Gilmore will not be taking the field for New England in 2021.

Having reportedly made unsuccessful attempts to find a trade partner, the Patriots elected to release a player due $7million in base salary in 2021, giving them salary cap flexibility and Gilmore the chance to compete for a second Super Bowl title elsewhere.

Gilmore is expected to receive significant interest on the open market, with both of last year's Super Bowl participants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, in need of help in the secondary.

Selected 10th overall the 2012 draft by the Buffalo Bills, Gilmore was signed by the Patriots in 2017 and helped them to two Super Bowl appearances. His interception of Jared Goff clinched New England's victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at the end of the 2018 campaign.

He led the NFL in interceptions in 2019 with six but played only 11 games in a 2020 season that ended for him with a torn quad in Week 15.

Stephon Gilmore is hopeful he can find common ground with the New England Patriots and that he can be "paid what I'm worth".

The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-Pro is seeking a new contract and held himself out of mandatory minicamp to attempt to force the Patriots' hand.

Cornerback Gilmore carries a salary cap hit of $16.26million, the largest among players at his position, in 2021.

However, his base salary of $7m is half that of Byron Jones of the Miami Dolphins, who leads all corners in that regard with $14m.

While he appears content to remain in New England, Gilmore clearly wants a contract that he feels reflects his status as one of the NFL's premier corners.

"I just want what I'm worth, however that plays out," Gilmore told ESPN's Josina Anderson.

"Every player should be paid what they're worth. That's just how it is.

"Hopefully, we can find some common ground and get it situated. I just know what I bring to the table and my style of play.

"Right now, I'm just trying to focus on myself and make sure I'm good mentally and physically."

Gilmore was limited to 11 games last season and underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a torn quadriceps muscle.

He added of his physical condition: "I feel stronger than I've ever felt since the surgery. I've been running a lot, building full speed.

"We'll see [if he is ready for training camp]; if I need to be. But I also don't want to push it."

Since signing a five-year, $65m contract with the Patriots in 2017, Gilmore has racked up 52 pass breakups, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and 11 interceptions.

 

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