Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Still Available: Slower Safety Market Than Expected

When free agency was set to begin earlier this week, many Eagles fans, including our staff, thought keeping Chauncey Gardner-Johnson would be a priority for the Eagles.

But that would be a tough task as surely teams would be bidding up the services for the playmaker – it’d be a though task for Howie Roseman, though.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, however. Jessie Bates got big money (4 years, $64 million), but the rest of the market has been well below that. Jordan Pryor got just $12.5 million for two years, Vonn Bell 3 for $22.5, Julian Love 2 for $12, Juan Thornhill 3 for $21 and Donovan Wilson 3 for $24.

Take out Bates and that leaves the rest of the top of the safety market averaging just $6.93 million per year – well below the amount that fans and likely Gardner-Johnson and his agent expected.

Earlier estimates (prior to the start of free agency) were anywhere from $10-$17 million per year. Bates only got $16M per year and it doesn’t seem likely that any team will even offer the minimum in that range for any other safety on the market.

Gardner-Johnson tweeted and quickly deleted something that’d indicate that this may be the case on Thursday.

Another factor that could work against Gardner-Johnson is that his first three seasons in the league were as a slot corner, a position that was already not heavily valued on the open market. If teams choose to see him in that light, it could further diminish his market.

CJGJ was acquired via trade with the Saints very late in the offseason as New Orleans had no interest in paying him. He quickly became a hit in the Eagles defense after they moved him to safety.

That put the Eagles among the teams that’d like to sign him this offseason. His former head coach (Sean Payton) reportedly would like him to join him in Denver and the Bengals have been an immediate player in his free agency since they left Jessie Bates walk and didn’t pay up for him.

At this point Gardner-Johnson is a top-two best available free agent on nearly any list and, at only 25 years old, it’s surprising he remains available.

The market is playing well for the Eagles chances to retain CJ, but there remain other suitors. It may ultimately come down to how long Gardner-Johnson and his agent are willing to wait just hoping that someone comes up to meet their asking price or how long the Birds are willing to wait and potentially pass on other free agent options that may become available.

For now, the Eagles safety room is topped by second-year man Reed Blankenship and Andre Chachere and K’Von Wallace would seem to be in competition for the second starting spot.

If Howie Roseman can pull it off, the return of Gardner-Johnson would mean that the best secondary Eagles fans have seen in quite some time would only figure to lose Marcus Epps and would gain Greedy Williams as additional corner depth – all before the draft even begins.