3 free agents the Detroit Lions should watch in the conference championship games
2. Eagles S C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Traded by the New Orleans Saints to the Eagles last offseason, Gardner-Johnson led the league with six interceptions this season along with 67 total tackles and eight pass breakups.
Eight wins in their last 10 games helped mask how bad the Lions’ pass defense still was, and there will surely be a focus on adding help in the secondary this offseason. Gardner-Johnson is a known agitator to go with his considerable talent, and he’s just 25 years old. He is more than strictly a safety as well, with ability to play slot corner.
As the Lions search for help on the back end of the defense, they shouldn’t worry too much about narrow or strict positional fit. Gardner-Johnson would be an upgrade over DeShon Elliott at one safety spot, with more versatility.
The thing with Gardner-Johnson, which knocks him off the No. 1 spot on this list, is the likely cost to sign him as a free agent. The perennially financially-strapped Saints traded him before having to entertain it. Spotrac projects him at $14 million a year, on a five-year deal.
But if the Lions are going to make a big free agency splash, it stands to be on someone in the secondary. In that big picture sense Gardner-Johnson should be on the radar, unless or until they are priced out of his market. Assuming they’ll draw a line they won’t go past there.