Cowboys get Stephon Gilmore from Colts; Dallas agrees with Leighton Vander Esch: Sources

By Jon Machota, Zak Keefer and Bob Sturm

The Indianapolis Colts traded cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:

Athletics‘s instant analysis:

Back story

Dallas allowed 207.8 passing yards per game last season, eighth in the NFL. The Cowboys were 12-5 in 2022 and fell in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers. The Colts (4-12) missed the postseason for the second year in a row.


Cowboys continue to address defense, agree to 2-year deal with LB Leighton Vander Esch

What do the Colts lose?

From the Colts’ end, the shame of this move is that Gilmore was one of the team’s few bright spots in 2022 — he started 16 games, had two interceptions and had three last-second wins with pass break-ups (against Kansas City, Denver and Las Vegas ). He heard a lot of what was said after his exit from Carolina — mainly that he was done as an elite corner — and Gilmore, even at 32, was determined to prove he was still one of the best in the game. He did that in Indy, and was a steady force in the secondary despite the chaos that engulfed the Colts’ 4-12-1 season. — Keefer

Signs of a rebuild in Indy

With the trade, the Colts gain a fifth-round pick and add about $9.9. millions in salary framework. This signals that the rebuild is underway and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more veterans are traded or released in the coming days. The Colts released quarterback Matt Ryan on Tuesday, according to a league source, before a large portion of his 2023 salary kicked in. Center Ryan Kelly could be another, a move that would clear about $8 million more. What does the team plan to do with the financial flexibility? That’s what we’ll have to wait and find out. — Keefer

Why Dallas Signed Gilmore

From every possible perspective, this is a very good game for the Cowboys. Gilmore may not have been what he was when he was arguably the best corner in the league, but he’s still very effective. Dallas saw that first hand in his visit to town in December when he had a very nice game. He comes to town to hopefully help a Cowboys secondary that had no third corner in San Francisco. They played Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland and four safeties, including their fourth safety in Israel Mukuamu.

This is certainly not a ringing endorsement of the big investment at the position in the 2021 draft with Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright in the second and third rounds, but they were unable to gain a foothold of trust from the coaching staff and front office in December and quickly became avoided for flyers on Mackensie Alexander and Xavier Rhodes.

Rhodes was ironically replaced by Gilmore in Indianapolis in 2022, and now Gilmore is following him to Dallas with a year left on his deal, where he should fit nicely with what Dan Quinn likes to do with his corners, and combined with Diggs will not many NFC teams can match the 1-2 punch of those corners on a Cowboys defense that was already pretty salty all around. This is a very reasonable idea for the team at the cost of a compensatory fifth round pick. I think this will bring some positivity for the time being in Dallas. — Sturm


Trade Assessment: Cowboys land Stephon Gilmore from Colts, set up dynamic CB tandem

What do cowboys win?

Many mock drafts have projected the Cowboys to take a corner with their first-round pick, No. 26 overall. It is clearly not so much a need now. Anthony Brown is an unrestricted free agent. Jourdan Lewis has one year left on his deal.

Gilmore will be 33 this coming season, so the best of his career is likely behind him. But he started 16 games last season for the Colts, intercepted a pair of passes and defended 11 more. He also had a career-high 66 tackles. The Cowboys would love for him to perform like 2019 Gilmore, where he had career highs with six interceptions and 20 passes defensed. But they will gladly take a repeat of last year’s performance. That coupled with a play-making secondary that includes Diggs, Bland, Donovan Wilson, Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and a pass rush led by Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, and the Cowboys should continue to have one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2023. — Machota

Required reading

(Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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