Should Packers Sign Former Defensive Player of Year?

While Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur likes the depth at cornerback, ESPN proposes the Packers add a proven veteran before the start of training camp.
Oct 16, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore (5) warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore (5) warms up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports / Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – One of the hottest competitions in Green Bay Packers training camp could be at cornerback, with Eric Stokes battling Carrington Valentine to be a starter.

It could be a hotter competition if the Packers signed veteran Stephon Gilmore. In proposing “one last offseason move” for every team,’s Aaron Schatz said the Packers should add Gilmore.

“Gilmore, 33, still has something left in the tank and would be valuable to the Packers even if he couldn't beat out Stokes for the starting spot in training camp,” Schatz wrote.

If cornerback is a “huge” question for the Packers given Stokes’ injury history and Valentine’s youth, it’s not a fear shared by coach Matt LaFleur.

“We’ll let them compete,” LaFleur said at the end of minicamp. “We’re going to play our best players. I feel really, really confident with the group that we have. There’s going to be some unforeseen things that happen but, luckily, we’ve got a lot of depth, in particular at that position.”

It’s the “unforeseen things” as well as the obvious things that could derail a championship-contending team.

Stokes, a first-round pick in 2021, looked like a potential standout at cornerback during a tremendous rookie season. Of the 16 rookie cornerbacks to play 200 coverage snaps in 2021, Stokes was first in completion percentage allowed (51.0) and second in forced incompletion percentage (18.8 for Stokes, 18.9 for Greg Newsome) and passer rating allowed (78.8 for Stokes, 69.7 for Patrick Surtain), according to Pro Football Focus.

However, Stokes hasn’t broken up a pass since 2021. He missed the second half of the 2022 season with a foot injury and played in only three games in 2023 due to hamstring injuries. When he has played, he hasn’t played well. During the last two seasons, Stokes allowed 29 completions in 35 targets (82.9 percent).

Valentine had an up-and-down rookie season as a seventh-round pick last year. Of 22 rookie cornerbacks to play at least 200 coverage snaps, Valentine was sixth in completion percentage allowed (57.4), 10th in forced incompletion percentage (9.8) and fourth in passer rating allowed (84.1).

But the Packers would have lost to the Chargers had Quentin Johnston not dropped a 75-yard touchdown pass against Valentine in the final moments, and they might have lost to the Chiefs had Valentine been charged with pass interference for tackling Marquez Valdes-Scanting near the 5-yard line.

As a whole, though, there was more good than bad, and the Packers wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him.

Last year, Valentine and Corey Ballentine led the Packers’ perimeter cornerbacks in snaps. Talk about unforeseen. But with Jaire Alexander’s injury-plagued season and the midseason trade of Rasul Douglas, the Packers were forced to turn to dig into their depth chart.

That’s where adding a player like Gilmore could help, just in case Stokes is unable to rebound or stay healthy or Valentine’s new physique doesn’t provide more consistent play.

While he’s not the same player he was with the Patriots during his All-Pro seasons of 2018 and 2019, when he had 20 passes defensed each year, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year remains a quality player. In 2021 with Carolina, 2022 with Indianapolis and 2023 with Dallas, PFF charged him with passer ratings in the low 80s. 

With the Cowboys, he had two interceptions and 13 passes defensed. His 54.9 percent completion rate ranked 17th out of 100 corners who played at least 300 coverage snaps, according to PFF.

Gilmore will turn 34 on Sept. 19. He’d be the oldest cornerback in the league, which no doubt explains why he remains unsigned.

Nonetheless, Gilmore was No. 16 on’s initial list of the top free agents. Now, he’s the best available, with Gregg Rosenthal calling him a “plus starter.”

For now, however, it will be Stokes and Valentine leading the charge to start opposite Jaire Alexander. Ballentine played surprisingly well in a zero-to-hero type of season, and Robert Rochell and rookie Kalen King will push for a roster spot.

“The one thing you can always count on him is when he goes out there to compete, he’s going to give it his all,” LaFleur said of Valentine last week. “I think when you approach it that way, you make huge jumps, huge improvements. He’s really pushing the guys in front of him, and it’s exciting because we’ve got a lot of different guys I feel like in particular in the back end at the corner position to go in there and play ball for us.”

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.