As the first week of 2023 NFL free agency wound down, counting the "legal tampering" period, the Detroit Lions swooped in and made it a trio of signings to overhaul their secondary. Getting C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who tied for the league lead in interceptions last year, on a one-year deal landed as a steal.
That the deal is even a little better for the Lions than initially reported ("up to" $8 million) added weight to the bargain to get a versatile. ball-hawking defensive back. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn certainly has plans for his former pupil from when he was the New Orleans Saints' defensive backs coach
By all accounts, Gardner-Johnson has been an instant great fit in Detroit as a veteran leader and tone-setter. Time will tell if that translates seamlessly to the season, but there's no reason it shouldn't.
Lions signing C.J. Gardner-Johnson labeled among top acquisitions of the NFL offseason
Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports has narrowed to a projection of what he feels are the best acquistions from the NFL offseason. While not strictly ranked, the Lions signing Gardner-Johnson was sixth on the list going top to bottom.
"You could substitute the ex-Eagles safety for fellow acquisition Cameron Sutton, or Alabama rookie Brian Branch, and we'd celebrate the move all the same. The common thread, of course, is Detroit prioritizing versatility and physicality in its secondary. Gardner-Johnson is the definition of a feisty player, embracing the opportunity to antagonize while ball-hawking from multiple spots. While he may be a one-year rental, he proved with Philly he can be a game-changer, and he fits the Lions like a glove."- Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports
If Gardner-Johnson performs as well as widely expected, he may not go the full season without a new contract offer to extend his stay in Detroit. The question would then be if he'd take a deal right then, or if he'd test the open market again after it was not kind to him this year.