Former Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson signing with Lions; report

Eagles reportedly losing Gardner-Johnson to Lions in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles will now have to replace both starting safeties from their Super Bowl roster after free agent C.J. Gardner-Johnson has agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, according to multiple reports.

Gardner-Johnson’s one-year deal with the Lions is worth $8 million with $6.5 million guaranteed, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

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So Gardner-Johnson didn’t get the big pay day he had hoped for and the Eagles curiously don’t match what seems like a relatively affordable deal from the Lions.

Last week, it was reported that the Eagles were working to bring Gardner-Johnson back even after locking up James Bradberry and extending Darius Slay.

But before then, the market clearly didn’t develop the way the young defensive back had hoped. The Eagles made Gardner-Johnson a multi-year offer early in free agency but he and his camp turned it down. The Eagles then pivoted to use that money on other players (among them Bradberry and Slay). It appears that Gardner-Johnson and his agent simply misjudged the market.

So now Gardner-Johnson is now essentially signing a one-year prove-it deal with the Lions and the Eagles will have to find their answers at safety elsewhere.


This Gardner-Johnson news comes after we found out earlier in free agency that fellow starting safety Marcus Epps signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The top remaining safeties on the current roster are Reed Blankenship and K’Von Wallace. They also have nickel corners Avonte Maddox and Josiah Scott, who have shown some ability to play safety. But this position seems very unsettled a week after free agency.

Gardner-Johnson, 25, played just one season with the Eagles after he was traded from New Orleans in late August. After playing nickel corner for his first three seasons in the NFL, Gardner-Johnson switched to safety in Philly and played well. He had six interceptions in just 12 regular season games.

In addition to the interceptions, Gardner-Johnson also had 67 tackles, a sack and 5 tackles for loss. There were some shaky moments playing a new position just days after the Eagles acquired him but Gardner-Johnson settled into his role and even played some nickel corner again in a pinch when the Eagles needed him.

Gardner-Johnson also brought a ton of energy to the NovaCare Complex and head coach Nick Sirianni clearly saw a lot of himself in CJGJ. But with that energy also came a very big personality, which could be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on the situation.


The Saints initially drafted Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round out of Florida back in 2019 and he developed into a very good nickel corner. But when a contract extension didn’t come from New Orleans, Gardner-Johnson and the Saints were at an impasse and he was excited about switching positions to finally get that big contract he wanted. He’ll have to wait at least another season for that.

While the Eagles are losing Gardner-Johnson, they will bring back both cornerbacks from the 2022 team. They re-signed Bradberry to a three-year deal and after a rocky 24 hours with Slay, were able to keep him with a modest extension.

Next up, the Eagles will have to figure out who’s playing safety for them in 2023.

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