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What trading defensive back Stephon Gilmore means for the Patriots

Related: Patriots reportedly release former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore

Arizona Cardinals v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After months of speculation about the future of both parties, the New England Patriots have officially chosen to parted ways with their former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. The move puts an end to one of the most successful runs a free agent signing has ever had in New England.

But what exactly does the trade mean for the future of the Patriots? Glad you asked!

New England believes in J.C. Jackson

Four weeks into the 2021 season, it’s become evident that the Patriots defensive back group can be successful without Gilmore. Do they have the same ceiling without him? No, but this is still a top-10 group in nearly every passing category on defense. The fact of the matter is, they have not missed a beat without Gilmore this season, and the man who deserves credit for that is J.C. Jackson.

Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018, J.C. Jackson has intercepted 19 passes, good for a tie of the league lead over that same span. As a result, he garnered a bit of a reputation for being an aggressive cornerback who can concede just as many big plays as he can make. That is why his placement as the team’s number one cornerback without Gilmore initially caused for some pause amongst Patriots fans.

Well with the roster that Bill Belichick built around him, Jackson has looked the part through four games. Despite having been matched up with the opponents number one receiver every week this season, Jackson has improved on his passer rating allowed from last year, and is giving up the lowest DADOT (defensive average depth of target) of his career. Not only are the Patriots using him like a true number one, he’s played like one so far.

The Patriots will receive a lottery ticket as compensation

A sixth-round pick in 2023. That is the direct compensation that the Patriots received for Stephon Gilmore, essentially a lottery ticket.

No one knows who will be amongst the day three prospects in 2023, so the Patriots will have yet another chance to throw something at the wall and see if it sticks in the sixth-round, a spot where they’ve been more successful than any other franchise.

The Patriots gained $5.8M in salary cap space

Entering the 2020 season, it was clear that Gilmore wasn’t going to play for the $10.5M that he was scheduled to make. With that in mind —and strapped for cash— the Patriots gave him a $5M advance from his 2021 salary. This set Gilmore up to play for just $7M in 2021, something that was never going to happen.

Knowing the situation had unfolded in a way that was going to force them to make a decision eventually, the Patriots bought time by placing Gilmore on the Physically Unable to Perform list. As a result of that, by getting Gilmore off of their books before he ever plays a game in 2021, they’ll gain $5.8M in spending money to sign this defensive contributor.

New England will add veteran contributor with the new salary cap space

About 30 seconds after the trade was announced by the Carolina Panthers, Jamie Collins’ agent released a statement on his clients return to New England. This was a move that we had all seen coming throughout the early parts of the week, but could not be confirmed until the Patriots had the salary cap space to sign the veteran to a contract. With Gilmore gone, they pounced.

This gives the Patriots another versatile linebacker, and officially puts the famed 2019 linebacking corps back together. Only this time, Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, and Ja’Whaun Bentley are also in the fold, making up one of the best units in the entire NFL.

The Collins signing will likely help keep Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower —two more linebackers on the wrong side of 30— fresh while the Patriots continue to develop their young guys around superstar Matt Judon. The Patriots upgraded their defensive unit following the trade of Gilmore, certainly a confusing process.