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Saints trading safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to Eagles in surprising move

The New Orleans Saints are trading defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday, per sources.

Contract extension talks broke down between Gardner-Johnson and the Saints, shifting New Orleans' focus from retaining the safety to moving him while he still carried value. The Saints didn't get much: Philadelphia sent New Orleans a 2023 fifth-round pick and 2024 sixth-round selection in exchange for Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh-round choice, per Pelissero.

Gardner-Johnson frequently filled the role of nickel back in New Orleans' defense in the last year, coming down from the safety position to cover slot receivers. He did a solid job, finishing sixth in targeted expected points added (-3) among defensive backs who spent at least 50 percent of their coverage snaps as a slot corner in 2021, per Next Gen Stats. Gardner-Johnson also tied for the second most interceptions among these defenders with three.

Unfortunately for Gardner-Johnson, the nickel corner doesn't command the same compensation as more prominent roles. He's expected to become a full-time safety in Philadelphia, per Pelissero, opening the door for Gardner-Johnson to earn a larger pay day at some point this season.

Gardner-Johnson is known as a fiery player who performs with plenty of passion. He's also been known to irritate players on the other side of the ball on more than one occasion.

The Eagles certainly won't mind that type of defender in their secondary. The acquisition of Gardner-Johnson also turns the roster toward a slightly younger position following the release of Jaquiski Tartt and the parting of ways between the Eagles and Anthony Harris.

New Orleans' willingness to move Gardner-Johnson also remains interesting. Every player should rightfully maximize and capitalize on his value when the time comes, and Gardner-Johnson is well aware playing slot corner isn't going to do that. But the swiftness with which this deal was executed indicates the Saints and Gardner-Johnson likely weren't close on an extension.

"We traded Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles. I want to say this: That was not an easy decision," Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters on Tuesday. "We wouldn't have done that if we didn't feel extremely confident in the group we had."

Instead, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman will have an opportunity to secure Gardner-Johnson for the long term.

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