10:22 AM PT -- Gilmore has found a new home -- the Patriots agreed to trade the star cornerback to the Carolina Panthers ... and the return is not great.
The news comes shortly after it was reported the Patriots had cut the 31-year-old ... but as it turns out, he's going back to his home state of South Carolina in exchange for a 2023 6th-round pick.
The move now sets up a homecoming for Gilmore ... but ya gotta think the Pats would have wanted more out of the deal.
The New England Patriots lost to Tom Brady ... and now, they've lost one of their best players too.
Just days after a crushing defeat to their ex-QB and the Buccaneers ... the Pats have cut Stephon Gilmore -- arguably the best player on their team.
Gilmore -- who hasn't been eligible to play the first few weeks of this season due to a quad injury -- had been squabbling with Pats brass over his contract ... and when it became clear a deal wouldn't get done, New England simply released him Wednesday.
Gilmore confirmed the news on his social media, penning an emotional farewell statement.
"It is with mixed emotions that I announce my goodbye to this great fan base," Gilmore said. "We enjoyed so much success together and you have been an incredible inspiration for my individual achievements."
Gilmore also thanked Robert Kraft and added, "Most of all I want to thank my teammates who lined up next to me every Sunday with one goal in mind. Those moments on and off the field will never be forgotten."
Gilmore joined the Pats in 2017 after a 5-year career in Buffalo and was an immediate impact player -- helping the team win one Super Bowl and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019.
The 31-year-old is expected to be coveted now that he's a free agent ... and rumors are already swirling that he could re-join Brady, his former New England teammate, in Tampa Bay.