June 14, 2024

Eagles Could Seek ‘Reunion’ With Former Super Bowl Starter

Nick Sirianni

GettyThe Eagles could bring back safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

The Philadelphia Eagles could be an ideal landing spot for one of their former Super Bowl starters.

As noted by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler in his “NFL Combine Buzz” column, the Eagles could see a “reunion” with one of their former starting safeties, C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson started during the 2022 season, co-leading the NFL in interceptions (six) while helping Philadelphia advance to the Super Bowl.

“A C.J. Gardner-Johnson reunion in Philadelphia is on my radar,” writes Fowler on Sunday, March 3. “The Eagles realized they missed the talented safety in the secondary. Tennessee makes sense for him, too. Titans defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson is a big fan of Gardner-Johnson from their Philly days.”

How C.J. Gardner-Johnson Left Eagles in 2023

During his lone season in Philadelphia, Gardner-Johnson posted 67 tackles and six interceptions in 12 starts.

The 26-year-old entered last offseason as one of the top free agents. However, he ended up settling for a deal much lower than his expected market value when he accepted a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Detroit Lions.

The Eagles actually attempted to re-sign Gardner-Johnson early in last year’s free agency; however, he rejected the initial offer, thinking he would receive a larger offer in free agency. That type of deal never came to fruition.

Via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“But before then, the market clearly didn’t develop the way the young defensive back had hoped,” writes Zangaro. “The Eagles made Gardner-Johnson a multi-year offer early in free agency but he and his camp turned it down. The Eagles then pivoted to use that money on other players (among them Bradberry and Slay). It appears that Gardner-Johnson and his agent simply misjudged the market.”

Why Eagles Want C.J. Gardner-Johnson Back for 2023

Gardner-Johnson missed most of last season due to a torn pec injury, appearing in just three games.

However, it was clear the Eagles’ secondary missed him big time. After emerging as one of the team’s clear strengths during their run to the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2022 season — the pass defense led the league in passing yards and net yards per attempt allowed — the unit regressed in a major way during the 2023 season.

The Eagles’ pass defense ranked second-to-last in both passing yardage and passing touchdowns allowed during the 2023 season. It was a major reason why Philadelphia went in a slump during the end of the season and why they made a defensive coordinator switch from Sean Desai to Matt Patricia in December just prior to the end of the regular season.

With Philadelphia possibly losing several key veterans this offseason — both Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox could retire, while Brandon Graham is a free agent — the possible addition of Gardner-Johnson would definitely boost leadership and morale considering he was there for the team’s Super Bowl run.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson carted off from Lions practice after knee injury

The news of Gardner-Johnson’s potential return comes shortly after the Eagles released starting safety Kevin Byard after acquiring him in a midseason trade with the Tennessee Titans.

Through five seasons, Gardner-Johnson holds career totals of 245 tackles and 12 interceptions in 58 games and 45 starts. He began his career with the New Orleans Saints in 2019.



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