The Saints are trading one of their top defensive backs to the Eagles. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is heading to Philadelphia, according to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The teams have since announced the deal.
Gardner-Johnson, who has played both safety and patrolled the slot for the Saints, staged a hold-in effort earlier in camp as he angled for an extension. Talks broke down, and the Saints are bailing on the talented defender.
It did not take too much in the way of compensation for this trade to go down. The Eagles are sending a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth to the Saints for Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh, Pelissero tweets. The 2024 sixth will be the lower of the Eagles’ two selections in that round.
The Eagles actually see Gardner-Johnson as a safety, Pelissero tweets. He will pair with Marcus Epps, who finished a strong training camp, at the position. A report earlier this month indicated the Eagles could acquire a safety, but Gardner-Johnson has largely excelled in the slot prior to this trade.
This will make for an interesting transition for the fourth-year veteran, especially coming in a contract year. Safety, however, as the Jamal Adams, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James deals have shown, has proven to be a more lucrative position than slot corner.
Tuesday’s deal also marks the third splash trade for the Eagles this offseason; the Saints have now been involved in two of those moves. This trade comes after the move to acquire A.J. Brown and the deal to land a future first-rounder from the Saints. No word about a potential Gardner-Johnson extension has come down. The Eagles could wait here, but Jalen Hurts‘ rookie contract also offers some flexibility. The team also has no notable cash tied to the safety position, having just released Anthony Harris.
While Pro Football Focus has rated Gardner-Johnson outside the top 50 at cornerback in each of the past two years, he carved out a regular role amongst a veteran Saints DB corps. The former fourth-round pick has also become known for his ability to rile up opposition — both opponents and teammates, considering Michael Thomas‘ 2020 team-imposed suspension came after he threw a punch at Gardner-Johnson. It will be interesting to see how he fares in Philly.
The Saints have assembled a deep secondary in recent years, and NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan tweets rookie Alontae Taylor is one of the players — along with Bradley Roby and former slot P.J. Williams — who have worked inside replacing Gardner-Johnson during camp. The team also already has a big-ticket cornerback deal (Marshon Lattimore) in a secondary that also now includes Tyrann Mathieu‘s $9MM-AAV deal.