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March 04, 2023

Eagles stay or go: Safety

C.J. Gardner-Johnson enters this offseason as one of the Eagles' biggest impending free agents.

Eagles NFL
022223ChaunceyGardnerJohnson Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' 2022 season is over (a little later than usual), we'll be taking a position-by-position look at which players will likely be back with the team in 2023, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll look at the safeties.

Regarding the polls below, they are your votes on what you think the Eagles should do, not necessarily what you think they will do. Please think of them more as approval polls for each player.

Previous stay or go articles
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver
Tight end | Offensive tackle | Guard/Center
Defensive tackle | Defensive end
SAM linebackers | Off-ball linebackers | Cornerbacks

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

In late August, the Eagles traded their 2023 fifth-round pick and the worse of their two sixth-round picks in 2024 for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh-round pick. Gardner-Johnson proceeded to lead the NFL in interceptions, with six, despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney. He did not make the Pro Bowl because of a dumb NFL rule that makes players ineligible for voting if they are on short-term IR.

Gardner-Johnson played out the final year of his rookie contract in 2022, and is a free agent this offseason. The Eagles would no doubt like to retain Gardner-Johnson, but that should prove to be difficult, as he is likely to attract lucrative offers from other teams around the league.

There was some recent scuttlebutt that Gardner-Johnson would be franchise tagged if he and the Eagles could not reach a long-term deal before the start of free agency. That is simply not a realistic option. To begin, the Eagles only have $5.6 million in cap space, as of this writing, according to The cost to tag safeties this year is roughly $14.5 million, so the Eagles would have to clear up significant space just to tag Gardner-Johnson, and keeping him on the cap at that number for the bulk of the offseason would limit their flexibility with the rest of the roster.

#JimmyVerdict: Last offseason, the Eagles were motivated players in the free agent safety market, but they came up empty when prices got to be too high. They were interested in signing Marcus Williams, for example, who instead inked a five-year, $70 million deal with Baltimore, and also missed out of guys like Justin Reid and Tyrann Mathieu. And that was when they had money to spend. Now, they don't.

If there's any consolation in losing Gardner-Johnson in free agency, I would guess that the Eagles would land something like a fourth-round compensatory pick in return. That fourth round pick would be better than the picks the Eagles gave up to get him in the first place. Go.

Eagles stay or go: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Marcus Epps

Epps finished third on the team with 94 tackles. He also had 6 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and no interceptions. He's a decent enough placeholder at safety on a loaded defense, but there should be concern about his play if the Eagles lose a bunch of good players this offseason, and there's an argument to be made that Reed Blankenship was a better player than Epps when he got his opportunities.

#JimmyVerdict: Epps is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, but I'm skeptical that he'll have much of a market and could return on a team-friendly deal. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Marcus Epps

Reed Blankenship

Blankenship was probably the Eagles' most impactful rookie this season, collecting 34 tackles, two pass breakups, and one INT. He made the team out of training camp as an undrafted rookie free agent, and began the season as the No. 4 safety. At some point during the season, he leapfrogged K’Von Wallace for the No. 3 safety role, and was called on to start after Gardner-Johnson went down with his kidney injury against the Packers. In that Packers game, Blankenship intercepted Aaron Rodgers and made several nice plays in run defense.

With Gardner-Johnson out, Blankenship would start against the Titans, Giants, Cowboys, and Saints, playing well overall in those four games. Upon Gardner-Johnson's return to the lineup, Blankenship still kept a role. Gardner-Johnson started at safety in the base defense but moved to the slot in nickel with Blankenship coming off the bench to play safety.

#JimmyVerdict: Blankenship will be an extremely cheap player for the next two seasons. Stay, obviously.

Eagles stay or go: Reed Blankenship

K'Von Wallace

On the season, Wallace played 164 snaps in the regular defense, and 323 on special teams. Wallace is a good tackler. He only has two missed tackles the last two seasons vs. 43 tackles, per But he has not shown that he can be reliable in coverage or where he needs to be against the run.

#JimmyVerdict: Wallace will be back in camp for his final season on his rookie contract, but his ceiling might be as a core special teamer and depth safety, which means that his roster spot is far from guaranteed.

Eagles stay or go: K'Von Wallace

Andre Chachere

Chachere played in 7 games for the Eagles in 2022, almost solely on special teams, making 5 tackles.

#JimmyVerdict: Chachere could be back in camp, but is probably a longshot to make the roster. If the Eagles want him back on the practice squad in 2023, they shouldn't have any obstacles.

Eagles stay or go: Andre Chachere

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