February 28, 2023
The Eagles have a long list of free agents to address this offseason, especially on defense, and finding a way to keep safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the fold for 2023 and beyond is likely one of their bigger – though hardest to accomplish – to-dos.
Howie Roseman and co. appear set to try, however.
Per Fox Sports' NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano, re-signing Gardner-Johnson is a "high priority" for the team in a competitive safety market.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps are free agents, which means the Eagles might have to replace both their starting safeties. They could replace one with Reed Blankenship, who was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie last season, stepping up when Gardner-Johnson got hurt. Maddox can also play safety in a pinch, though the Eagles prefer him at corner.
Re-signing Gardner-Johnson is a high priority for the Eagles, according to a team source, though he might be looking to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, which would be hard for the Eagles to do. If they can't, they may have to get creative to find someone to fill his shoes. [Fox Sports]
Gardner-Johnson, 25, was acquired from New Orleans just before the start of the 2022 season, and alongside Marcus Epps and cornerbacks Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox, filled out one of the NFL's best defensive backfields.
He made six interceptions throughout the regular season, which led the NFL for a while, and was still good enough for a four-way tie by the end even after missing five games with a lacerated kidney.
Reed Blankenship did pretty admirably filling in while Gardner-Johnson was out, perhaps giving the Eagles a bit more depth to work with at safety than maybe they initially thought, but the defense as a whole was that much fiercer with Gardner-Johnson in the backfield, and with turnover expected from 20 pending free agents, having him still back there could make other defensive decisions a bit more manageable.
Provided, of course, the term is right for both sides.
A list of the Eagles' free agents:
|Offense (8)||Defense (11)||Special Teams (1)|
|T Andre Dillard||CB James Bradberry||P Brett Kern|
|C Jason Kelce||DT Fletcher Cox|
|QB Gardner Minshew||LB T.J. Edwards|
|WR Zach Pascal||S Marcus Epps|
|RB Miles Sanders||S C.J. Gardner-Johnson|
|RB Boston Scott||DE Brandon Graham|
|G Isaac Seumalo||DT Javon Hargrave|
|TE Tyree Jackson*||DT Linval Joseph|
|DE Robert Quinn|
|DT Ndamukong Suh|
|LB Kyzir White|
*Eagles can retain negotiating rights with minimum salary tender
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