Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Eagles Sign DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson

MARCH 25: The Eagles will guarantee Gardner-Johnson $10MM on this deal,’s Eliot Shorr-Parks tweets. The team used void years through 2029 to spread out the cap hits.

MARCH 12: C.J. Gardner-Johnson is heading back to Philly. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that the veteran defensive back is signing with the Eagles.

The veteran is inking a three-year deal worth up to $33MM, according to Pelissero. Following a one-year stop in Detroit, Gardner-Johnson is now back with his former squad.

After getting traded by the Saints to the Eagles prior to the 2022 campaign, Gardner-Johnson proceeded to start 12 games for Philadelphia, missing a chunk of midseason games thanks to a lacerated kidney. Despite the absence, he finished the season with 67 tackles and a league-leading six interceptions. He also started each of the Eagles’ three playoff games, including a Super Bowl loss where he compiled four tackles.

That performance earned him a one-year, $8MM contract from the Lions last offseason. However, his lone season in Detroit was highlighted by injuries. He suffered a non-contact injury during training camp that was expected to wipe out his season, but the MRI provided a brighter outlook. Gardner-Johnson was able to return in time for the start of the regular season, but he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 that wiped out most of the campaign.

He got back to the field for the regular season finale, and he subsequently played in at least 50 percent of Detroit’s defensive snaps in each of their three playoff games. The 26-year-old still showed he had something left in the tank during the postseason, collecting 12 tackles and an interception.

The Eagles still have Darius Slay and James Bradberry atop their depth chart, but the team did lose some depth when they cut Avonte Maddox last week. Gardner-Johnson’s experience will likely provide him with a path to plenty of playing time as a backup or nickelback.

Titans Rumors: Ridley, Gardner-Johnson, Dillard

The Titans have yearned for a No. 1 wide receiver since they traded away A.J. Brown. Literally since that exact moment, when they used the draft pick they acquired in that trade to draft Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks in the hopes that he would take over. They had also traded for former Rams wide receiver Robert Woods in hopes that he would return from injury to the form of his best years in Los Angeles.

When neither of those moves worked out quite how the wished, Tennessee signed DeAndre Hopkins. While Hopkins certainly gave them a season worthy of a WR1, it became clear that that was not quite enough, that the team still had to get better around Hopkins. Enter Calvin Ridley.

The list of free agent wide receivers this year is expansive, but it is anything but lucrative. Some of the top options like Gabriel Davis and Darnell Mooney had already signed and other top options like Mike Williams, Michael Thomas, and Odell Beckham Jr. came with their own caveats. According to Dianna Russini of The Athletic, the Titans brass was focused on a singular goal: landing the best wide receiver available.

With the options out there, they set their sights on Ridley and their focus narrowed. The team reportedly put themselves in position to land Ridley starting last night, keeping in constant contact with Ridley and company. Not wanting to allow for anyone else to obtain their treasure, they made their move, offering what they knew would be the best deal that any team might offer the 29-year-old receiver. The rest is history, they landed their man, and he will be donning Titans blue in 2024.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of Nashville:

  • With the Titans looking to add a defensive back to the roster, following the loss of Kevin Byard after his trade midseason, the name C.J. Gardner-Johnson has come up, per Adam Caplan at Pro Football Network. The veteran safety has some familiarity with the staff playing one of the best seasons of his career under new defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson when the two were both in Philadelphia. Gardner-Johnson missed nearly all of the 2023 campaign with a torn pectoral muscle, starting the first two games of the season and making a comeback for the playoffs, so he may even come at a slight discount.
  • While retaining that their plans could change, Caplan also reports that the Titans are currently expected to retain veteran left tackle Andre Dillard, who just finished the first year of his three-year, $29MM contract. Dillard started 10 games last year and was forced to the bench for six others. $6MM of his $9MM base salary for 2024 became fully guaranteed today and he will carry a $10.68MM cap hit for the season. Cutting him now would only save $2.88MM of cap space while leaving $7.79MM of dead money, while designating him a post-June 1 release could clear up $6.47MM of cap space, leaving the team with only $4.2MM of dead money. If he is retained, he would be assumed to start at left tackle, leaving Nicholas Petit-Frere and Jaelyn Duncan to battle for the right tackle job.

Eagles Expected To Make Move For Safety; C.J. Gardner-Johnson Back On Radar

During an offseason that centered around Jalen Hurts‘ extension, the Eagles cut costs at safety and linebacker. Both positions suffered due to the exits of Super Bowl LVII starters, and injuries played a major role at each spot. The team is planning to adjust its approach this year.

The Eagles, who released 2023 trade pickup Kevin Byard last week, are expected to make a significant addition at safety, according to the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. The market is becoming crowded, with the Seahawks (Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs), Broncos (Justin Simmons) and Bills (Jordan Poyer) sending longtime DB pillars to street free agency.

One player who should be monitored here: C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Reports indicated the Eagles made an offer to the NFL’s 2022 co-INT leader last year, but Gardner-Johnson denied that happened. Regardless of how CJGJ exited last year, the Eagles pivoted to paying corners. Dominoes did not fall in Gardner-Johnson’s direction, as he accepted a one-year, $6.5MM Lions deal days later. The Eagles, however, realized they missed the versatile defender’s presence, per’s Jeremy Fowler.

Philly ended up going with Byard and Reed Blankenship as its primary safeties down the stretch, and the team cratered following a 10-1 start. Rookie contributor Sydney Brown may well begin next season on the reserve/PUP list due to the ACL tear he suffered in the team’s regular-season finale. One year remains on Blankenship’s contract, though he was a backup in 2022 behind Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps. The latter signed a two-year, $12MM Raiders deal in 2023.

Gardner-Johnson may need to accept another “prove it” deal after he missed nearly all of last season due to a pectoral tear. Though, CJGJ was among the players who made it back from an early-season pec tear to suit up before year’s end. Gardner-Johnson came off IR in Week 18 but did not return to a starting role with Detroit. The Titans should also be a team to watch for Gardner-Johnson, Fowler adds, with new Tennessee DC Dennard Wilson a fan from his time coaching Philadelphia’s DBs. Vic Fangio also coached Simmons for three seasons in Denver, being the team’s HC when it authorized a then-record extension in 2021.

Elsewhere in the Eagles’ secondary, Howie Roseman said they are keeping James Bradberry for the 2024 season. Considering Bradberry has an $8.85MM salary guarantee for the 2024 season (as part of a $20MM guarantee package from his second Eagles agreement), this is hardly surprising. But it does make age an issue in the Eagles’ secondary. Bradberry will be 31 next season, while Darius Slay turned 33 earlier this year. It could make the Eagles cautious about adding a 30-something at safety on this year’s market.

Lions Activate C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Alim McNeill From IR

Ahead of their regular season finale, the Lions will receive reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball. The team announced on Saturday that defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill have been activated from injured reserve.

The former returned to practice December 20, opening his three-week activation window. Gardner-Johnson was in line to make his return to the lineup in time for Week 18, so today’s move comes as little surprise. The free agent addition is now cleared to see regular season action for the first time since suffering a torn pec in September.

The Lions’ secondary has seen a number of changes during the season related to health and performance. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said earlier this week that second-round rookie Brian Branch will remain Detroit’s starting slot corner. As a result, Gardner-Johnson will be used at safety when on the field. The 26-year-old will rotate alongside Ifeatu Melifonwu and Kerby Joseph on the backend as the Lions look for needed improvement against the pass on defense.

The NFC North champions rank 25th in passing yards allowed per game entering Week 18, allowing 240 yards per game through the air. That has weighed down the team’s overall defensive showing (23.4 points per game allowed, 23rd in the league). A healthy Gardner-Johnson could help in that department if he manages to showcase his level of play with the Eagles last season (something which would also, of course, help his free agent market in the offseason after he came to the Lions on a one-year deal).

McNeill had his practice window opened earlier this week, a sign that he would be able to suit up for the regular season finale. The move allowed Detroit to part ways with fellow D-lineman Isaiah Buggswho appears to have asked to be let go. McNeill had been sidelined for one month, interrupting his breakout third season in the league. The former third-rounder has posted a career-high five sacks and 12 QB pressures in 12 contests while remaining a full-time starter. He will provide an interior pass-rush presence in the postseason as part of a defensive front which ranks fifth against the run.

As a result of Saturday’s moves, the Lions have two IR activations remaining. One of those will be needed if edge rusher James Houston – who returned to practice December 28 – is to be brought back into the fold at some point this year. At any rate, Detroit’s defense will be in better shape from a health standpoint ahead of the team’s playoff game next week.

Lions Open Practice Window For S C.J. Gardner-Johnson

After a strong showing with the Super Bowl runner-up Eagles last season, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson was considered a significant free agent addition for the Lions back in March. Unfortunately for both parties, Gardner-Johnson only made two starts in Detroit before being placed on injured reserve. Three months later, Gardner-Johnson is finally nearing a return to the active roster, with the Lions officially designating him to return from IR today, per Lions senior writer Tim Twentyman.

Gardner-Johnson found himself on IR so shortly into the regular season after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Initially, a full tear was feared, which usually results in a season-ending diagnosis. While things weren’t “looking good” early, the door has remained open all these weeks later for his return. Almost a week ago, the team announced that the veteran defensive back had been medically cleared to return to play.

Gardner-Johnson was not the only member of Detroit’s secondary to be lost for a significant amount of time. Not long after the team lost Gardner-Johnson early in the season, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffered his second ACL tear in as many years. Rookie second-round pick Brian Branch has combined with Cameron Sutton to hold down the cornerbacks group. In Gardner-Johnson’s place, Tracy Walker and Ifeatu Melifonwu have combined to fill a starting role alongside Kerby Joseph.

Now that he’s officially been designated to return, Gardner-Johnson has a 21-day window in which he can practice and eventually be activated off of IR. If he is unable to make a return to the active roster within the three-week period, he will be returned to IR and be unable to be activated during the 2023 season.

Lions S C.J. Gardner-Johnson Receives Medical Clearance

C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2, altering his chance to impress this season and command a more lucrative deal for the 2024 season. Months later, the Lions safety has a chance to come back.

Rumored to not be shutting down his effort to play again this season, the fifth-year DB is indeed moving close to a return. Gardner-Johnson received medical clearance Thursday, and Dan Campbell said the free agent pickup will be ready to return “pretty soon.”

The Lions have not yet designated Gardner-Johnson for return from IR. He would have three weeks to be activated once his practice window opens. Based on Campbell’s comments, it sounds likely the Lions will have Gardner-Johnson back in uniform before the regular season concludes. The team is in fairly good shape for injury activations, holding five IR-return moves. Alim McNeill joins Gardner-Johnson in being expected back late this season.

The team has lost two of its top five secondary cogs this season; cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffered a second ACL tear in two years not long after Gardner-Johnson went down. The Lions added four key pieces to their secondary this offseason (CJGJ, Moseley, Cameron Sutton, Brian Branch) but have been without two of them for months. Tracy Walker, who suffered an Achilles tear early last season, has returned to a regular role in Gardner-Johnson’s absence.

While Moseley will be hitting free agency on the heels of another injury-marred season, Gardner-Johnson looks set to have a chance at reestablishing his momentum. Rumored to be a player the Eagles wanted back, Gardner-Johnson saw his market not produce what he expected. He signed a one-year, $6.5MM Lions deal. Although Gardner-Johnson played in the slot under former Saints DBs coach Aaron Glenn, the third-year Lions DC kept him at safety, where the Eagles stationed him last season. Gardner-Johnson’s six INTs tied for the NFL lead last year.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old cover man’s chances of scoring a better contract may have taken a hit because of his injury, but making key contributions and showing no hiccups upon returning from this early-season setback would help his cause ahead of free agency. The Lions have exclusive negotiating rights with Gardner-Johnson until next year’s legal tampering period.

Latest On Lions’ Secondary Plans

After ranking at or near the bottom across the board defensively last season, the Lions made a number of investments this offseason. Most of them came in the secondary. The team signed three expected starters and drafted a fourth in the second round. Two of those starters will not be available against the Packers tonight.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley are out, though the latter is moving closer to debuting for his new team. The former 49ers cornerback will not play against the Pack, per’s Tom Pelissero, but the Lions have a big role in mind for him once he is finally cleared to return.

The Lions are preparing to incorporate Moseley as a regular immediately. Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) the free agent pickup is expected to rotate with Jerry Jacobs upon debuting. Jacobs will still have a regular gig and a chance to fend off Moseley, but Detroit prioritized the latter in free agency. GM Brad Holmes said Moseley would have likely been out of the Lions’ price range had he not suffered an ACL tear in October 2022.

I think, more than anything, it will probably be by series,” Campbell said of Detroit’s upcoming CB rotation. “Certainly give [Moseley] a couple in a row where he gets a good feel and I think most of it will be we’ll put a governor on his reps so that we’ll be smart about that as he comes back. Then, really from there, it’s how does he feel?

I think everybody feels pretty good about as he goes out there, he’s going to get his legs back under him pretty quick. Certainly, we’ll see where that goes. The good news is if it’s not quite there yet then we still have Jerry and we’ll battle it out. We’re fortunate to have both those guys.”

Moseley, 27, has undergone two surgeries, the second coming this summer, and Rogers notes he would likely have debuted already were it not for a summer hamstring strain. Moseley started 33 games for the 49ers and added five postseason starts — including Super Bowl LIV. He operated as a boundary corner in San Francisco and, after signing a one-year deal worth $6MM, will be expected to start alongside Cameron Sutton and nickel Brian Branch in Detroit.

This represents a big year for Moseley, who will need to show sufficient form following the knee injury. Moseley signed a lower-level deal (two years, $9.38MM) in 2021 to stay in San Francisco. After his one-year Lions pact, time is running out for the sixth-year defender to score a lucrative payday.

Gardner-Johnson resides in the same boat, though he has a bit more time to cash in. The 25-year-old defender, however, has seen a torn pectoral muscle hijack his Motor City platform season. Although this injury frequently ends players’ seasons, Campbell has not ruled out the possibility of the starting safety returning late in this campaign.

Campbell said during a WXYT radio interview (h/t Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) Gardner-Johnson is not a lock to be shut down. The Lions will likely hold back one of their eight IR activations for CJGJ. Tracy Walker, who suffered an Achilles tear early last season, started in place of Gardner-Johnson against the Falcons. Walker made for an unusual backup, having signed a three-year, $25MM deal after 34 games from 2019-21.

Gardner-Johnson had aimed to use this Lions season to command a better market than he did in March, when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5MM with the Lions. While it is possible the Lions will have both their one-year DB investments — Gardner-Johnson and Moseley — on the field together later this season, the team has some backups with extensive starter experience holding down the fort.

Additionally, the Lions are on track to have two of their offensive starters — Taylor Decker and David Montgomery — back tonight. The veteran left tackle and UFA running back addition are slated to play, Rogers adds. Decker has missed the past two weeks; Montgomery was sidelined for Week 3.

Lions Place S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DE James Houston On IR

The injuries C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Houston sustained in Week 2 will lead to two key defenders moving off the Lions’ roster. The team placed the veteran safety and young defensive end on IR on Tuesday.

Initially reported as an ankle ailment, Houston is actually dealing with a fibula injury, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett). Additionally, Halapoulivaati Vaitai may be facing a multiweek absence. Campbell said the team’s right guard starter could be out for a bit, though he added (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) it does not look like an IR move will be necessary.

Gardner-Johnson may be on track to miss the rest of the season. The fifth-year DB is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. With Houston suffering a fracture, he may also miss the rest of the year.

Despite the Eagles expressing interest in re-signing Gardner-Johnson this offseason, he ended up with the Lions on a surprising deal. Gardner-Johnson, who denied a report of the Eagles submitting a multiyear offer, signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal. While players have landed big-ticket contracts despite season-ending injuries in the recent past — Allen Robinson, Bud Dupree and Dak Prescott are three of note — Gardner-Johnson was aiming to use this season as a trampoline toward a more lucrative pact. A surgery taking place would wound those aspirations. The Lions have exclusive negotiating rights with CJGJ until March of next year.

Houston’s injury will blunt some surprising early-career momentum. Houston went from sixth-round pick to Detroit’s practice squad, debuting on Thanksgiving Day. The Jackson State product managed to rack up eight sacks after that late start. He started one game for the Lions this season.

While it is not known if Gardner-Johnson and Houston are both done for the season, it obviously represents good news Vaitai avoided a serious injury. A back issue sidelined Vaitai throughout last season, leading to a pay cut. The former Eagles draftee also considered retirement this offseason. The Lions have Graham Glasgow back in place as insurance, and although Vaitai beat out the returning blocker for the RG post, Glasgow has been a starter for most of his career. While the Broncos released Glasgow to pick up cap space in March, he started 33 games for the team — at guard and center — from 2020-22. Glasgow, 30, has started 91 career contests.

Lions Fear C.J. Gardner-Johnson Sustained Torn Pectoral Muscle

The Lions could soon be without a key piece in their secondary. They fear C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered a torn pectoral muscle, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of report.

This would be a tough blow to Gardner-Johnson’s hopes of using this season as a platform to command a better contract in free agency. Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal with the Lions in March, doing so after the Eagles had expressed interest in keeping him. Though, Gardner-Johnson said no firm offer came his way from the defending NFC champions.

Losing Gardner-Johnson would deliver a substantial blow to the Lions’ defense as well. The team struggled for most of last season defensively and loaded up on DB investments this year. Gardner-Johnson followed Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to Detroit, and the team soon drafted Brian Branch in the second round. Branch and Gardner-Johnson offer similar skillsets, as safeties with extensive slot experience. The Lions began the season with Branch at nickel and CJGJ at safety.

A full tear would point to Gardner-Johnson missing the rest of the season. A strain or a partial tear keeps the door open for a return. Though, these reports generally do not bring good news for injured players, and the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes this “is not looking good” for Gardner-Johnson.

The fifth-year defender played 97% of Detroit’s defensive snaps in the overtime loss to Seattle. The team would have the option of moving Branch to safety. The Alabama product came off the draft board as this year’s top safety, though he played extensively at nickel in Nick Saban’s program. Branch also impressed at nickel this offseason, moving the Lions to scrap a rumored plan of returning Gardner-Johnson to nickel — his primary Saints spot — after he had moved to safety for the Eagles.

Detroit does have Tracy Walker, whom it re-signed in free agency last year, and Will Harris as experienced reserves. The Lions previously moved Harris from safety to corner, but Sutton and Jerry Jacobs operate as the team’s perimeter starters. Moseley, who is finishing up a recovery from an October 2022 ACL tear, has yet to debut for the Lions. Gardner-Johnson had joined Kerby Joseph as the team’s starting safeties, though Joseph missed Week 2.

Walker has made 37 career starts and re-signed with the Lions — on a three-year, $25MM deal in 2022. Walker, however, suffered a torn Achilles in Week 3 of last season. Losing his starting job upon returning, the sixth-year vet has played just nine defensive snaps this season.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson Addresses Eagles Exit; Buccaneers, Ravens Showed Interest

Despite multiple seasons as an upper-echelon slot cornerback and tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions in his first year as a full-time safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson only scored a one-year deal worth $6.5MM this offseason. The Lions have the ex-Aaron Glenn Saints pupil as a rental of sorts.

This season will be about re-establishing value for Gardner-Johnson, and while the fifth-year DB expressed interest in staying in Detroit on a longer-term deal (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett), he offered more information on his Philadelphia exit.

When Gardner-Johnson signed with the Lions, a report indicated the Eagles had made him a multiyear offer. Gardner-Johnson, 25, was said to have been angling for more money from the Eagles, who were rumored to be interested in retaining him. During an offseason in which the Eagles rebooted at both safety and linebacker, Gardner-Johnson said he was informed the team was going in a different direction. Rather than accept a Lions offer over an Eagles proposal, CJGJ insisted no firm Philly proposal came his way, Birkett adds.

Gardner-Johnson instead said someone in the Eagles’ front office told him the team was moving on. The timing here could be notable. The Eagles had discussed trading Darius Slay, and other teams showed interest in James Bradberry. Days into free agency, however, the Eagles regrouped with Slay — en route to an extension on March 16 — and had agreed to re-sign Bradberry two days earlier. While prioritizing their older corners, the defending NFC champions eventually let Gardner-Johnson walk. Gardner-Johnson’s Lions deal came to pass on March 19.

[My] DB coach even know why I was pissed off that whole week,” Gardner-Johnson said of his free agency stay. “I got the front office telling me they’re not going to pay me. And I’m not trying to think about money, I’m just trying to think about ball, but when you just throw a subliminal out of nowhere … ‘Play your hardest; we’re not going to pay you.’ … Well, all right, what does that come from?

Carrying understandable animosity toward the Eagles, Gardner-Johnson also said a Saints staffer told him he would not be in their plans at safety just before the team sent him home ahead of the August 2022 trade to the Eagles. Known as much for his instigation tactics as his play, the brash cover man also drew some level of interest from the Buccaneers and Ravens, Birkett adds. The Ravens hired ex-Eagles DBs coach Dennard Wilson, whom Sean Desai beat out for Philly’s DC gig.

Gardner-Johnson is set to begin his Lions season as a safety alongside Kerby Joseph. While rumors of the former fourth-round pick moving back to the slot under Glenn circulated in May, Brian Branch commandeered that job during training camp. The Lions infused their secondary with talent this offseason, one that also included additions of Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley.

Gardner-Johnson would be open to another Detroit deal but noted the team has other priorities ahead of him. Jared Goff is signed through 2024, but the team has engaged its quarterback in extension talks. Amon-Ra St. Brown‘s contract year also looms in 2024, while guard Jonah Jackson is going into a platform campaign this season. Jackson joins Goff in having talked to the Lions about a deal. Penei Sewell also stands to be in the Lions’ extension plans, though the right tackle can be controlled through 2025 via the fifth-year option, with Birkett adding cornerback Jerry Jacobs may be on the extension radar as well.

This year’s safety market did not take off for anyone except Jessie Bates, who signed a four-year, $64MM Falcons deal. No other safety scored even an $8MM-AAV pact, putting Gardner-Johnson in an interesting place with regards to a 2024 free agency bid. But he will attempt to use this season to command a nice guarantee on his third NFL contract.