The Detroit Lions made a big splash in free agency Sunday night. Reports are that they have signed former Eagles free safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. The talented defensive back, widely considered among the NFL’s elite, entered the 2023 free agency seeking a team hungry for a Super Bowl. The Lions agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with Gardner-Johnson, with $6.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Praise from Lions’ Defensive Coordinator
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who coached Gardner-Johnson in 2019 as the Saints’ defensive backs coach, had this to say: “It’s limitless on what he can do. He has the speed and mentality to play corner. But he can play nickel, in the box, and deep safety. You have fun with players like that.”
Elevating the Eagles’ Defense
Gardner-Johnson joined the Eagles in the 2022 preseason and played a key role in transforming their defense into one of the NFL’s best. Despite missing five games due to a lacerated kidney, he still managed to co-lead the league in interceptions with six. Now, Gardner-Johnson will bring his talents to the Detroit Lions, a team that many expect to take the next step and win the NFC North.
Bolstering the Lions’ Defense
With the 30th-ranked passing defense in the league, allowing 245.8 passing yards per game, the Lions need to strengthen their defensive backfield. General manager Brad Holmes has nearly $25 million in financial flexibility ahead of free agency, making a ball-hawking safety like Gardner-Johnson a top priority.
Familiar Faces and a Bright Future
Lions head coach Dan Campbell, who served as the Saints’ associate head coach when they drafted Gardner-Johnson in the 2019 NFL Draft, knows the player well. This familiarity makes Detroit an excellent fit for Gardner-Johnson, as the Lions edge closer to postseason contention.
Gardner-Johnson’s Impressive Track Record
Traded to the Eagles for Day 3 draft-pick considerations just before Week 1. Gardner-Johnson quickly became the team’s go-to turnover creator. Tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions, he showcased his versatility by transitioning from nickel to safety. His age, production, and adaptability make him a valuable asset on the market.
Brad Holmes savvy is on full display once again, Detroit Lions fans should be very, very excited.
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