There are many things that a player has to weigh during free agency.
Some players may want to go to the highest bidder. Others may be looking at the fit within the organization. And some want to go where they have the best chance to win.
For Stephon Gilmore, he wanted to be patient in free agency.
The 32-year-old cornerback has accomplished everything there is to accomplish at his position. Gilmore has been selected to five Pro Bowls, including the past four years. He’s been named a First-Team All-Pro twice. He was even named Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 when he led the league in interceptions and pass deflections.
As he entered the 2022 offseason looking for a new team, he wanted to make sure he was getting paid his due. He wanted an organization that had premier talent across the roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Most of all, he wanted to go to an organization that was focused on winning.
Enter the Indianapolis Colts.
Owner Jim Irsay had sent his private plane to bring in Gilmore for a visit last Wednesday. Followers of the Colts know that Irsay’s private plane is not sent for just anyone. It is reserved for bringing in high-profile players after a big trade or in the hopes of signing that player. Quarterback Matt Ryan was the last player brought to Indy aboard Mr. Irsay’s jet.
Gilmore fits that criteria. The All-Pro toured the Colts’ facility on W 56th Street, meeting with general manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich, and the rest of the defensive coaches on the staff. Once he got into the building, he was sold.
“I think the visit last week – me coming down, meeting with the coaches and Chris (Ballard). It just felt right,” Gilmore revealed Monday at his introductory press conference. “The opportunity, the potential the team had, talking to my family making sure it was the right opportunity for us also. So, I’m looking forward to it because I think the future (in Indy) is bright. That’s one of the opportunities that I made the decision to come here.”
The Colts officially announced the signing of Gilmore on Monday. The Colts new CB1 signed a reported two-year, $23 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. Gilmore becomes the seventh highest-paid player on the Colts roster.
But the money wasn’t the top priority for him. Gilmore has made over $87 million in his career. For Gilmore, it was about finding a talented group he could contribute to and a team he could win a second Super Bowl with.
“I think as everyone knows we have a lot of great players on the defensive side of the ball,” Gilmore said. “With my skillset, I think I can play anything they want me to play if I can play it to a high level. My main thing is just studying the offense, figuring out what they’re doing – trying to make my job a lot easier, as I can. So, I think whatever they call, I want to play it at a high level and go from there.”
As far as talent is concerned, the Colts’ defense is loaded. Returning are three Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard, and cornerback Kenny Moore II. The Colts added Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue via trade to pair with Kwity Paye along the defensive line. Gilmore gives the Colts five Pro Bowlers on the defensive side of the ball alone.
Gilmore’s playing style also fits well with how the Colts play on defense. The Colts are known for their aggressive mindset in forcing turnovers and punching the ball out. With Gilmore’s 27 career interceptions, he adds another ballhawk to this turnover-heavy defense.
“I think (I’m) a guy that just makes plays whether it’s making plays on the ball, whether it’s punching the ball out or just being aggressive on receivers, whoever the receivers are,” Gilmore explained. “That’s my thing. Going into each and every game, making plays, limiting top receivers to a short gain. That’s what I do, that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. So, just looking forward to coming in and doing that for the team.”
For the Colts, the team had been looking for secondary help ever since they traded cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to the Las Vegas Raiders earlier in the offseason for Ngakoue. When Gilmore became a possibility, they did their homework on the veteran to see how he would fit with the team and their culture. Indy was blown away by Gilmore’s character, work ethic, and leadership ability.
The Colts are known for being very patient in free agency. However, when they find a player that fits everything they want on the field and in the locker room, they become very aggressive. This was evident in their pursuit of Gilmore.
The jet was sent, the player wowed, and the deal was done. And patience, while dismissed by some, paid off for both Gilmore and the Colts.
“I just wanted to be patient and weigh out my options and find the right fit for me and my family,” Gilmore admitted. “I think the Colts came in and talked to the coaches and it just felt right. It was one of those things where it just felt right in my heart to come here, especially with the talent on the team. Me watching them from afar last year, what they did last year, and was right there. I just wanted to come in and try to help the team get over that hump.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
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