What’s next for Stephon Gilmore?

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the NFL’s 2019 defensive player of the year, will be available to sign with anyone the moment that termination becomes effective at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. (In theory, he could be traded before then.) So what happens next?

To the extent he has a real injury, his health could complicate his next move. To the extent the injury was simply an “injury” to facilitate a hold-in that lasted into the regular season, Gilmore could be ready to go, soon.

Given the injury issues in the Tampa Bay secondary and the history between Tom Brady and Gilmore, it would be a surprise if Brady doesn’t start recruiting Gilmore to the Bucs immediately. (Hell, Brady possibly already began that process, weeks ago.) But Gilmore, who got top dollar on the open market when he signed with the Patriots after spending his first five years in Buffalo, may want to play it out a bit. What if, for example, the Packers decide to get involved, especially in light of the injury to Jaire Alexander? How about the Cowboys? The Panthers? The Seahawks? The Saints?

And that’s just the NFC. Contenders in the AFC, such as the Chiefs, Ravens, Raiders, and Bills, could make a play.

Regardless, it likely wasn’t a coincidence that Gilmore got cut three days after the Patriots faced the Buccaneers. New England coach Bill Belichick surely didn’t want to have to face Gilmore on Sunday night. If true, this underscores the reality that Gilmore isn’t really injured, and that he could play right away.

We’ll find out in the coming days — or possibly in the coming hours — whether that happens.