Eagles’ Howie Roseman explains why C.J. Gardner-Johnson didn’t return

Roseman explains what happened with Gardner-Johnson originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

PHOENIX — The Eagles wanted to bring back C.J. Gardner-Johnson but they couldn’t just wait around.

So they moved on.

That was the explanation general manager Howie Roseman gave on Monday at the NFL’s annual league meetings for losing Gardner-Johnson during free agency earlier this month.

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“I think when you go back to the start of free agency, we talked to his representatives about bringing him back here and also talked to them about the fact that we had limited resources,” Roseman said. “It’s no secret that sometime relatively soon we want to extend our quarterback. Our whole kind of roster building is going to turn a little bit here from a quarterback on a rookie deal towards hopefully a quarterback on a long-term deal. Not that we have anything done or anything but that’s obviously our goal, is to keep Jalen (Hurts) here for a long time. And so you run out of resources.

“We were very clear that at some point we were going to have to go in a different direction. In those first couple days, we tried and then we pivoted. I think that’s one of the most important things in free agency. You can go in with a plan but you have to be able to pivot and have other options and not get stuck with nothing. I think at that point, that’s where we went. When we pivoted that was kind of where it went.”

The Eagles started free agency trying to bring back Gardner-Johnson and offered him a multi-year deal, a league source told NBC Sports Philadelphia. When that deal was turned down, the Eagles decided they couldn’t wait. That’s when they pivoted and found a way to bring back James Bradberry on a three-year deal and a way to keep Darius Slay on a three-year deal.

The Eagles didn’t plan on pivoting but when they realized the cornerback market was similarly depressed, they decided to put money into that position — a position the league generally values more — instead.


Snooze ya lose.

It was very clear that Gardner-Johnson’s camp misread the market that would develop for their client. Jesse Bates got a four-year, $64 million contract from the Falcons but Gardner-Johnson isn’t Bates. And aside from that $16 million per year deal for Bates, the rest of the safety market was weak for free agents this offseason.

Gardner-Johnson was clearly disappointed by all this and had to settle for a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Lions.

A report surfaced after Gardner-Johnson agreed to terms with the Lions that the Eagles were given a chance to match that deal from Detroit. Roseman was asked about that on Monday.


“I think we talked so much, I’m trying to think… He may say yes,” Roseman said. “I don’t remember specifically if he said, ‘Hey I have this.’ I think at that point in time, he was ready to move on.”

It might have been better for both sides to move on at that point. They were clearly far apart in terms of value when the process began and perhaps the Eagles would be reasonable to fear Gardner-Johnson’s returning on a deal he wasn’t ultimately happy with. That likely figured into the decision.

That doesn’t mean the loss won’t sting. Gardner-Johnson is still just 25 and is coming off a really strong year with six interceptions with the Eagles in 2022, his first in the NFL as a safety. Of all the players the Eagles had the opportunity to bring back this offseason, Gardner-Johnson was one pending free agent who could presumably be in his prime at the end of a multi-year deal.

But the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to come around. So they didn’t.

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