Late on Sunday night, NFL insider Tom Pelissero (who lives in my suburban Minneapolis town which really makes you think that this is the hotbed for NFL breaking news between him and me living here) reported that former Philadelphia Eagles safety CJ Gardner-Johnson was signing a free agent deal with the Detroit Lions.
Many Birds fans were hoping that CJGJ was going to re-sign with the Eagles and were disappointed when he didn’t. Since he became a Lion, there has been MUCH discussion about what Philadelphia did or did not offer him in free agency and who is actually at fault for him moving on.
It has been a whatever-the-opposite-of-riveting situation to watch develop online over the past 24 hours. The first bit of news came out immediately after the deal was announced and Jeff McLane said that the Eagles had offered him a multi-year deal early in free agency but Gardner-Johnson wanted more (money? years? who can say) and went to test the market.
Despite leading the league in interceptions last season, apparently the market wasn’t as hot as CJGJ had hoped and, since the Eagles had already used most of their “defensive back funds” on bringing CBs James Bradberry and Darius Slay back, he had to settle for a one-year “prove it” deal with Detroit.
Adding some context to CJ Gardner-Johnson's departure from Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/CYrHLv2UA1— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) March 20, 2023
Apparently once he had Detroit’s offer the Eagles were given the chance to match it, but they declined. Gardner-Johnson quote tweeted the above clip of Jim Trotter, saying “Black balled but it’s good ::saluting guy emoji::.” CJGJ’s tweet was eventually deleted. Was it because he didn’t believe that or was it because he misused the term “black balled?”
No one can know for sure, but he had nothing but nice things to say about Philadelphia during his introductory press conference in Detroit.
After CJGJ initially declined the #Eagles 3-year $24M deal to test the market, the #Eagles were given the chance to match the #Lions 1-year $8M deal, and they declined to do so, per @JimTrotter_NFL.— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) March 20, 2023
CJ confirmed Jim’s report, and followed it up saying he was “black-balled.” pic.twitter.com/8VhBnCyUJr
I’m told the Eagles offer a week ago is being misrepresented here. CJ and his agent did not take the offer. Then Eagles worked on getting a deal done with James Bradberry and then Darius Slay. So then 5 or 6 days after offer was made, allotted money for DBs was mostly filled. https://t.co/IrK7wYhgkD— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 20, 2023
Some people have begun to question whether CJGJ’s agents (Universal Sports Management) knew what they were doing after they tweeted out a “perception vs. reality” post with numbers that looked like salary cap figures, and not CJGJ’s actual earnings, for an Eagles contract.
Amazing that those numbers look like CAP figures for an Eagles contract. This is at best disingenuous by USM. pic.twitter.com/KMng2cNxp2— Sam Lynch (@shlynch) March 20, 2023
Now that Gardner-Johnson is no longer on the team, the Eagles are going to have to replace both starting safeties from last year’s defense. Perhaps they will draft one! If you’re looking for more information on potential new safeties take a look at our Story Stream for NFL Draft content!