We are a few days into the new league year across the NFL which means we are finally at a place where we can avoid funky and silly language. Obviously there are negotiations that happen in the lead-up to the NFL new year that include terms being agreed to between a player and team (new or old), as well as between teams as they discuss a trade. It is always possible to see somebody get cold feet at the eleventh hour, but thankfully that did not happen this year.
We are specifically thankful that this did not happen to the Dallas Cowboys as they did something very notable prior to the new year beginning (or what some people refer to as pre-free agency). They traded with the Indianapolis Colts for veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The Gilmore trade has had Cowboys fans living on cloud nine for the last few days and for good reason, but Cowboys Nation is not alone in giving the team’s brain-trust their due flowers.
Football Outsiders named the Cowboys trade for Stephon Gilmore as the best move of NFL Pre-Free Agency
We are all aware that the Cowboys were not the only team in the NFL to strike a deal before the clock officially hit midnight on the new league year. The Gilmore trade was great, but there were other notable moves across the league. Heck, there was another notable move involving a trade for a cornerback as the Miami Dolphins dealt for Jalen Ramsey which had a lot of Cowboys fans upset for a few days.
Interestingly our friends over at Football Outsiders believe quite strongly in the Gilmore trade, so strongly in fact, they named it the best move across the NFL during pre-Free Agency (Miami acquiring Ramsey was number four by the way).
1. Dallas Cowboys Trade for Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore’s charting metrics for the 2022 Colts were strong if unspectacular: a 54.9% completion rate allowed (32nd among cornerbacks with 50-plus targets), 6.8 yards per target (29th), 0.9 yards per coverage snaps (tied with many for 21st). He appears to have arrived at a second late-career plateau just a notch below his All-Pro peak, and that’s all the need from a corner-for-hire who will line up across from Trevon Diggs for a defense fueled by a Micah Parsons-led pass rush.
Gilmore provides answers for dealing with the Eagles offense and cuts off any potential avenues of victory for just about every other NFC opponent. And he comes for the low price of a fifth-round pick and the sort of cap space a playoff team should spend on a veteran leverage-position starter.
As noted, what is so great about the Gilmore trade is about the team that he helps to make with his presence. Critics will say that the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year has lost a step, but you can afford that loss when you are in a group with the likes of Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Donovan Wilson, so on and so forth.
What is particularly worth mentioning is that for the first time since he became Stephon Gilmore, he is not being asked to be a superstar player or the top cornerback on his team. Trevon Diggs is present and accounted for, hopefully with a new deal before long, which allows Gilmore to slot into a secondary role (no pun intended on either of those words).
Looking at FO data, the Cowboys were in extreme need in this specific department last season as they ranked 32nd in Defensive Pass DVOA specifically against number two receivers on the opposing offense. We are all well-aware at how Anthony Brown’s loss impacted the team, the Cowboys were just never able to find true and total stability opposite of Diggs.
Gilmore was a part of the Colts this past season and they were obviously not great, so the narrative on them is not positive. It is worth noting that Gilmore allowed 11.5 yards per completion last season (which was actually better than his DPOY season of 2019) and had had his lowest completion percentage allowed since that DPOY campaign.
The Cowboys didn’t just acquire a very good player in trading for Stephon Gilmore.
The Cowboys created an absolute strength by trading for Stephon Gilmore.
That is very exciting.