March 20, 2023
There was interest from the Eagles in keeping C.J. Gardner-Johnson around, but as free agency progressed, priorities seemed to have shifted.
Cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry, both key pieces to the Eagles' NFC champion defensive backfield, got re-upped instead, while Gardner-Johnson ended up in Detroit on a one-year, $8 million deal that was far short of what anyone was expecting for the 25-year old safety.
There was reportedly a multi-year offer from the Eagles on the table at first – one that Gardner-Johnson's agency implied was a backloaded one – but he went looking for more in a market that ultimately wasn't there, leaving him to take the Lions' offer as potential a bridge to greater term next spring.
He was introduced by the Lions on Monday, and while he didn't focus too much on how negotiations went with the Eagles, he did say there wasn't any ill will.
"I'm not disappointed. I mean, I went to the Super Bowl," Gardner-Johnson said. "Obviously we didn't win it, but the experience I had, I don't have no bad blood. People overreact to a tweet in free agency, but it was never disrespectful toward the organization, the organization treated me like family. It's just, gotta do what's best for your family. That's all it is."
Finishing 2022 tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions, even after missing several games with a lacerated kidney, Gardner-Johnson definitely looked like he was in line for a nice payday with his contract expiring – be it with the Eagles or elsewhere. Any longtime offer he might've been after, however, just never came in.
"It's a business, man, just keep pushing," Gardner-Johnson said. "Just play football, keep your head down, and God will bless you eventually. That's how I take it. I don't really trip about it. Take it day by day."
The @Lions are getting a ball hawk in @CGJXXIII, who had a career-high and league-tying best 6 INTs in 2022 🔥 pic.twitter.com/2Q0T6b1kcw— NFL (@NFL) March 20, 2023
Working in Gardner-Johnson's favor is that the Lions look to be a team on the rise after closing out 2022 winning five of their last six. If he can be a boost to their defensive backfield and serve as one of the pieces that puts them over the top into playoff contention, it'll certainly draw eyes on the open market this time next year.
As for the Eagles, they're set at corner now after having retained Slay and Bradberry but can stand to find another upgrade at safety.
Reed Blankenship, who did hold up well when filled in, and K'Von Wallace are currently listed as the Eagles' top two at the position.
Thank you Philly organization, definitely was a hell of a ride!!! 🙏🏾— C.J. Gardner-Johnson (@CGJXXIII) March 20, 2023
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