The Dallas Cowboys remained largely quiet in the first 24 hours or so of the negotiation window -- that is, until Tuesday afternoon.
Dallas is acquiring cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Colts in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported. Rapoport reported later Tuesday that the Cowboys are re-signing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a two-year, $11 million contract.
The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year has been a bit of a nomad in recent seasons, moving from New England to Carolina via in-season trade in 2021 before signing with Indianapolis in 2022. In both seasons, Gilmore proved he still has plenty left in the tank, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 and playing at a high level in 2022. Pro Football Focus ranked Gilmore as the ninth-best cornerback in the NFL in 2022 according to defensive grade, which included a coverage grade of 81.1. His 11 passes defensed, two interceptions and 66 tackles support this evaluation.
Gilmore played a key part in a Colts defense that quietly compiled a solid season, thanks to the efforts of players like Gilmore, Rodney McLeod and DeForest Buckner. Sensing that the Colts likely won't expect to contend for a title in 2023, Indianapolis capitalized on Gilmore's remaining value, sending him to Dallas for a Day 3 pick.
With Trevon Diggs and 2022 breakout defender DaRon Bland, Dallas doesn't necessarily have a massive need at the position, but it could certainly use another experienced player who can still cover receivers at a high level. The Cowboys believe that is precisely what they've gained in Gilmore, a Pro Bowl-caliber player who can do everything the team wants in Dan Quinn's defensive system.
Tuesday's addition of Gilmore and re-signing of safety Donovan Wilson signals a change in approach for Dallas, which focused heavily on offense in the last two years while enjoying surprisingly positive production from a defense that ended up being the team's strength. With this in mind, Dallas is doubling down on defense with the hopes it can take some pressure off the offense and carry the Cowboys to victory.
Dallas' decision to re-sign Vander Esch falls in line with this change.
Gilmore certainly brings winning experience to Dallas, his third new home in three years.