The Patriots initially were planning to release Gilmore on Wednesday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, but ultimately traded the four-time Pro Bowler to Carolina for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick.
Gilmore and Patriots coach Bill Belichick had both offered public goodbyes prior to the announced trade.
“We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements,” Gilmore wrote on Twitter. “… To Mr. [Robert] Kraft, the coaches, and the organization thank you for providing me with this platform and allowing me to be part of greatness. Most of all I want to thank my teammates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind.”
Belichick praised Gilmore in a statement as a “true professional and class act” and said the decision to move on from the cornerback was mutual.
Gilmore is recovering from surgery on a torn quad that he had in December. He is expected to be ready to play in the coming weeks but cannot come off the physically unable to perform list until after Week 6.
The Panthers have been trying to solve secondary injuries in 2021, including a possibly season-ending broken foot for first-round pick Jaycee Horn. Carolina traded with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 27 for cornerback CJ Henderson, who played only 18 defensive snaps during the Panthers’ Week 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Gilmore is in line for a potential reunion with his former team when the Panthers host the Patriots in Week 9.
The 31-year-old player has a base salary of $7 million in 2021 after signing a five-year, $65 million contract with the Patriots in 2017 and being advanced $5 million of his 2021 earnings in the 2020 season. The Panthers are set to pay Gilmore $5.8 million over the rest of the season.
Gilmore and the Panthers are both open to him playing out the final year of his contract, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The sides could discuss an extension, but the Panthers expect Gilmore to reach free agency, which the cornerback would embrace.
Moving on from Gilmore is set to give the Patriots, who were roughly $54,000 under the salary cap, an additional $5.8 million in cap space.
Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, had skipped the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp in June while publicly expressing displeasure with his contract during the offseason. He tied a career low with one interception last season, playing in just 11 games after missing time because of a COVID-19 diagnosis and the quad injury.
Gilmore was raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, about 26 miles from Carolina’s current headquarters. The Panthers will be moving their headquarters to Rock Hill within the next two years.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss and The Associated Press contributed to this report.