FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys answered one of their bigger offseason questions by acquiring cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts for a fifth-round draft pick, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Cowboys gave up pick No. 176, one of the two fifth-round compensatory picks they earned last week, to the Colts in exchange for Gilmore, who is entering the final year of his contract and has a base salary of $7.9 million.
The Cowboys also are bringing back linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the team announced. A source told ESPN that the Vander Esch deal is for two years and worth $11 million.
Gilmore, 32, started 16 games last season for Indianapolis and had two interceptions, one of which came against the Cowboys.
Gilmore will be paired with Trevon Diggs, who has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons, to give the Cowboys one of their best cornerback duos in years. DaRon Bland led the Cowboys with five interceptions in 2023, playing mostly in the slot in his rookie season.
The Cowboys also have former second-round pick Kelvin Joseph on the roster, but it is possible he could be released. Jourdan Lewis is coming off a serious Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery, and Anthony Brown, who is a free agent, is working back from a torn Achilles.
A five-time Pro Bowler with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, Gilmore was the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year after recording a league-high six interceptions and 20 pass deflections for the Patriots.
The addition of Gilmore to a defense that has led the NFL in takeaways in each of the past two seasons will make coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit stronger. The Cowboys also re-signed their leading tackler from 2022, safety Donovan Wilson, to a three-year deal worth up to $24 million on Tuesday, and they are in discussions to keep defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (six sacks last season).
Vander Esch, after bursting on the scene as a rookie in 2018 and leading the Cowboys in tackles while earning a Pro Bowl spot, regained his form over the past two seasons after myriad injuries kept him out of 13 games spanning the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Vander Esch, who turned 27 in February, had 90 tackles while starting 14 games in 2022. He also had 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. When he wasn’t on the field, the Cowboys’ run defense wasn’t the same, giving up 132 yards per game on the ground without him as opposed to 119.4 with him.
He grew into a leader on the Cowboys’ defense and was responsible for getting players lined up correctly. He re-signed with Dallas last year on a one-year deal worth $2 million and earned an extra $300,000 in incentives after the team opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on him as a first-round pick.