NFL Free Agency- Stay or Go: CJ Gardner-Johnson

The Philadelphia Eagles have 20 free agents heading into the NFL offseason according to contract supersite Sportrac.  

Of the pending free agents, 13 of 20 were key contributors to the Eagles run towards another Lombardi Trophy.   

The staff from Sports Talk Philly –editors Paul Bowman and Michael Lipinski and Eagles writers Jennifer McGraw and Maranda Jo Shinn– have decided to play a game of “stay or go” with Jeffery Lurie’s money!

First up, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Jan 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (23) against the New York Giants during an NFC divisional round game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY

Name: C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Position: Safety

Age: 26

Acquired: via trade with NO on 8/30/22 (sent 2023 5th Rd & 2024 6th Rd picks)

Achievements: Interceptions co-leader (2022)

2022 Regular Season Stats: 12 GP/12 GS, 67 TOT (61 solo, 6 asst), 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 6 INT, 8 PD, 1 FF

Market Value: $13.3MM/year

Potential Contract: 5-years/$66MM


Based on Sportrac’s formula.

Marcus Williams5$70,000,000$14,000,00025
Kevin Byard5$70,500,000$14,100,00025
Justin Simmons4$61,000,000$15,250,00027
Eddie Jackson4$58,400,000$14,600,00026

Paul Bowman, STP editor: Gardner-Johnson is perhaps the only player leaving this defense that I feel confident will be the same level of player regardless of where he goes. He’s the Richard Sherman comparison to the Legion of Boom. He’s a young player and would be a wise investment. He may be a struggle to retain, however, considering that this is his first free agency and he’s spent only one year with Philly. That said, he was very public about how much better he liked being with the Eagles franchise over the Saints. It’s hard to believe that Howie Roseman invested the draft capital in trading for him with just one season of control without an intent to re-sign him. Getting a reasonable deal will be key.

Verdict: Stay

Michael Lipinski, STP editor: In my opinion, CJGJ is the biggest internal free agent the Philadelphia Eagles have.  Gardner-Johnson is a versatile player that has the ability to play corner in nickel coverage and safety the rest of the time.  Like another former New Orleans Saint Malcom Jenkins, Gardner-Johnson has the ability to hold down the backend of the Birds’ defense for the next five to six seasons.

Verdict: Stay

Jenn McGraw, Eagles writer: CJ Gardner-Johnson brought fire to the defense – and I’m not just talking numbers. He’s one of us. Gardner-Johnson is a player that belongs on the Eagles. After losing Rodney McLeod in the offseason, the Eagles needed someone who could fill his shoes. Gardner-Johnson was that guy with one sack and six interceptions this season. I hope to see him back next season to see what he can do with a different Eagles defense.

Verdict: Stay

Maranda Jo Shinn, Eagles writer: CJGJ bleeds green. After being traded from what appeared to be a miserable Saints contract, Gardner-Johnson has become a true Eagle. The offseason trade paid off in big ways for the birds this season, giving their defense the much needed swagger. Speaking for himself, CJGJ tied the NFL lead with six interceptions, despite missing five games due to a rib injury. Sitting at only 25-years-old, he still has room to develop even further as a safety, and for that, I say we should extend his contract.

Verdict: Stay

Consensus: Stay

Gardner-Johnson gets a unanimous vote to stay. The Eagles should look to make retaining him a priority.

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