When the Detroit Lions surprisingly landed C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency, general manager Brad Holmes could not contain his excitement.
It was certainly a surprise that C.J. Gardner-Johnson was available almost through the first full week of free agency, and also a surprise the Detroit Lions got him on such an inexpensive one-year deal.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes had a lengthy session with the media at the league meetings on Monday, touching on a long list of topics. The signing of Gardner-Johnson, which broke late in the day on Mar. 19, was a natural one.
Gardner-Johnson overlapped with Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn for a couple seasons with the New Orleans Saints, naturally working closely with Glenn, who was the Saints’ defensive backs coach. Glenn has known Gardner-Johnson since the latter was in high school.
That made it easy to tie Gardner-Johnson to the Lions. But they simply didn’t have a great need at safety, and weren’t likely to meet the expected price.
"When I saw the grades and the ball production and all that, I just figured, OK, this guy’s probably getting top-safety money and we’re just not going to be in that market,”My rides home are usually my decompression space, but I just kept calling Kevin (Conner), just kind of just checking in and saying, ‘Hey man, what’s going on?’” Holmes said. “That just kept escalating, escalating. And then it escalated all the way up until I want to say (March 17), we had a good conversation, and then (the next day) we followed up again, just internally as a group, and even (the following morning), it was just another one of those routine calls. And it just happened to escalate ‘til we kind of got in a position we could get it done.”"
Brad Holmes could not contain his excitement about landing C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Being that the news of the deal for Gardner-Johnson broke late on a Sunday night, Holmes was at home while his wife and two kids were sleeping. Holmes talked about that dynamic.
"I was really, really excited. Sunday night, almost 10:00, the kids were asleep upstairs, wife was sleeping and I basically woke the whole house up when we got that done,”"
Gardner-Johnson turned down what was reportedly a back-loaded three-year deal to stay with the Eagles, thinking he’d get a multi-year deal from someone else as they moved on. That of course didn’t happen, but his fit with the Lions is strong and there’s a solid chance he is around beyond 2023.
Lions fans were and are excited about the surprising move to sign Gardner-Johnson, and Holmes could not contain his excitement when he got the deal done– to the detriment of the rest of his family being able to stay asleep.