Given that one of the top defensive players on the market signed a one-year contract worth up to just $8 million with $6.5 million guaranteed, it seemed something went sideways in Philly.
Despite CJGJ's agents suggesting the Eagles low-balled him on a long-term deal, the defensive back said Monday he has no "bad blood" with the Eagles.
"I'm not disappointed. I mean, we went to the Super Bowl," he said. "I mean, obviously we didn't win it, but the experience that I had, I don't have no bad blood. I mean, people overreact to a tweet in free agency, but it was never disrespectful to the organization. The organization treated me like family. It's just, you got to do what's best for your family. That's all it is."
Gardner-Johnson added: "It is what it is. The past is the past. I'm here now with a brand-new team, new city, ready to win some games."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that, before free agency, the Eagles offered CJGJ a multi-year extension. The DB felt like he could earn more, so he turned it down. At that point, Philly switched gears, retained James Bradberry and worked out an extension to keep cornerback Darius Slay. The market didn't prove so fruitful.
From there, Gardner-Johnson decided to join the Lions -- where he's familiar with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn from their time together in New Orleans -- on a one-year deal that will give him another shot at free agency next offseason.
His addition helps the Lions fortify a secondary that was frankly awful in 2022. Adding CJGJ, Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley completely remakes the back end. The free-agent additions provide the Lions with versatile veteran playmaking and allow them to keep their options open in the draft (though we'd still expect them to add a corner with one of their early-round selections).
Gardner-Johnson suggested the current talent in Detroit is better than what he played with last season in Philly.
"To be honest with you, it's a little better," he said. "But that's just on me, I mean everybody can look from the outside looking in. But this team is talented. This team, we can win the division, like possibly win the division. Everybody should feel that way. But when I look at a team coming from where I came from, the teams I played on, won multiple divisions, been in playoff games, been to the Super Bowl, this team has what it takes to be a divisional (champion). You know what I'm saying, get there, win the division, get to the playoffs. But it's got to start with, what's your identity? Who are you? And I think that's going to start when we get back with each other on the mandatory date to kick in."
The Lions' talent isn't proven to be on par with what the Eagles put on the field last season, but you can understand Gardner-Johnson's optimism. Detroit GM Brad Holmes has done a fantastic job remaking the roster in two seasons. But with four draft picks in the top 55 selections, there is more work to do to set the roster up for the future.