According to various sources, the Eagles will now have to replace both starting safety from their Super Bowl roster after free agency C.J. Gardner-Johnson signed to a one-year contract with the Detroit Lions.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Gardner-one-year Johnson’s contract with the Lions is for $8 million with $6.5 million guaranteed.
So Gardner-Johnson didn’t receive the enormous payday he was hoping for, and the Eagles, for some reason, don’t match what seems to be a pretty low-cost offer from the Lions.
Even after signing James Bradberry and extending Darius Slay, the Eagles were reportedly seeking to get Gardner-Johnson back.
But, the market did not grow in the manner that the young defensive back had envisioned. Gardner-Johnson and his camp turned down a multi-year contract from the Eagles early in free agency. The Eagles then decided to spend that money on other players (among them Bradberry and Slay). Gardner-Johnson and his agency seem to have miscalculated the market.
Gardner-Johnson is now effectively signing a one-year contract with the Lions to prove himself, and the Eagles will have to look elsewhere for solutions at safety.
Gardner-signing Johnson’s comes after fellow starting safety Marcus Epps inked a two-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders earlier in free agency. Reed Blankenship and K’Von Wallace are the top remaining safeties on the current roster. Avonte Maddox and Josiah Scott, their nickel corners, have showed some aptitude to play safety. But, a week after free agency, this situation seems to be highly uncertain.
Gardner-Johnson, 25, joined the Eagles in late August after being traded from the Saints. Gardner-Johnson played safety in Philadelphia after playing nickel corner during his first three seasons in the NFL. In just 12 regular-season games, he collected six interceptions.
Gardner-Johnson also recorded 67 tackles, a sack, and five tackles for loss in addition to the interceptions. There were some jitters playing a new position so soon after being acquired by the Eagles, but Gardner-Johnson settled in and even played some nickel corner in a pinch when the Eagles needed him.
Gardner-Johnson brought a lot of enthusiasm to the NovaCare Complex as well, and head coach Nick Sirianni definitely recognised a lot of himself in CJGJ. But, with with tremendous energy came a large personality, which could be seen positively or negatively depending on the occasion.
Gardner-Johnson was originally picked in the fourth round out of Florida by the Saints in 2019, and he grew into a very effective nickel corner. Gardner-Johnson and the Saints were at odds when a contract extension from New Orleans failed to materialise, and he was enthused about moving positions to finally obtain the huge deal he desired. It will have to wait for at least another season.
Although Gardner-Johnson is leaving, the Eagles will bring back both cornerbacks from the 2022 team. They re-signed Bradberry to a three-year contract and were able to retain Slay with a small extension after a rough 24 hours with him.