The Detroit Lions got a “great one” in safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, according to former teammate A.J. Brown. He chose to sign a one-year, $8 million deal in free agency after contract negotiations broke down with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Gardner-Johnson will take his talents to the NFC North, devoid of any “bad blood” or disappointment about how things panned out. He made sure to compliment the Eagles’ organization during his introductory press conference in Detroit, calling out the team’s amazing Super Bowl run in 2022. He was treated like family.
“I don’t have no bad blood,” Gardner-Johnson said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I mean, people overreacted with a tweet in free agency but it was never disrespectful towards the organization. They treated me like family. It’s just you gotta do what’s best for your family.”
The tweet in question came from Universal Sports & Entertainment, the sports agency that caught headlines for all the wrong reasons for a tone-deaf assessment of the situation. Which was made worse when Gardner-Johnson seemed to encourage the unnecessary salvo.
Gardner-Johnson appeared to be speaking from the heart about his time in Philly, showing his former franchise nothing but love and appreciation. No animosity whatsoever. Then, in the same breath, the 25-year-old safety took a parting shot. The talent level on the Lions’ roster trumps what the Eagles have going on from top to bottom.
“To be honest with you, it’s a little better, but that’s just on me,” Gardner-Johnson said, via Pro Football Talk. “Everybody can look from the outside looking in, but that’s just on me, from the outside looking in, but this team has talent. This team, we can win the division, possibly win the division.”
NFL Network Explains What Really Happened
Did the Eagles low-ball Gardner-Johnson in free agency? Did they not fully value him as a player on and off the field?
That seems to be the crux of the matter, according to NFL Network’s Jim Trotter. He attempted to explain what really happened in the wee hours of those failed contract negotiations between Gardner-Johson and the Eagles.
“I’m surprised at how the Eagles handled this,” Trotter said. “They offered him a three-year back-loaded contract worth a maximum of $24 million and 17-plus million of that was in Year 3. So why would C.J. Gardner-Johnson take that?
“But I’ll say this to you, this speaks to the value they placed on the player. The Eagles were given an opportunity to match that one-year, $8 million offer to Gardner-Johnson and they declined. So clearly he did not fit into their plans which is shocking because this is one of the more talented young safeties in the game today.”
Former Saints Safety Raises More Questions
Some reporters have been painting a picture of Gardner-Johnson as a bit of a malcontent, something that never reared its head publicly last season. He was a model citizen — a great teammate, Pro Bowl-caliber player, a tremendous leader, and a valuable sounding board. Everyone loved CJGJ.
But, on the heels of his strange and unexpected exit, the narrative started to change. The New Orleans Saints traded him seemingly out of the blue because they didn’t want to offer him a lucrative contract extension. Now history has repeated itself in Philadelphia. It’s an interesting parallel, one that former Saints safety Roman Harper lent credence to during an appearance on Steve Smith’s podcast. This is what Harper said:
My only fear is that if he’s not all the way right off the field, and taking care of his business all the time, and continuing trying to be the best person he can be off the field, then that would be my only scare for him. It’s got nothing to do with on-the-field talent because the on-the-field talent, he was a first-round talent, but he got drafted in the third round because of some other question marks.
Harper went on to hype up his style of play, then brought it back to those “other question marks.” The Saints weren’t going to pay him because of those ghosts. Neither did the Eagles. Then, Harper added: “Money makes you more of what you are.”