C.J. Gardner-Johnson is making an instant impact, and the Detroit Lions should consider already giving him a multi-year deal.
To close out the opening week of free agency in March, the Detroit Lions made a pretty surprising signing in defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The 25 year-old surprisingly lingered available that long, and the Lions got a bargain on a one-year deal.
Bringing in Gardner-Johnson made sense for both parties. The Lions got a very versatile player who can play all over the field, but primarily nickel (slot) corner or safety. Gardner-Johnson is reunited with Aaron Glenn, who was his defensive backs coach with the New Orleans Saints.
Playing for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, Gardner-Johnson tied for the league lead in interceptions last season with six. If he has another good season this year for the Lions, he'll likely cash in nicely on the open market next March.
The Lions are only through minicamp, but Gardner-Johnson is bringing something unique to the mix (via Tim Twentyman of Lions.com).
"I don't think guys have a fire that I have," Gardner-Johnson said lastThursday. "In the Super Bowl you seen it. Last year you seen it. Year before last year you seen it. The year I got in Tom Brady's face you seen it. I think the passion that you guys see and the energy – I'm just ready to win. I'm not trying to take no steps off.""
The Lions may want to, and in my opinion they really should, get ahead of things and get Gardner-Johnson signed to a multi-year contract extension right now.
What would a multi-year contract for C.J. Gardner-Johnson look like?
So what would a contract extension likely look like for Gardner-Johnson?
Derwin James is the highest paid safety in the NFL, at $19 million a year. Would Gardner-Johnson command a contract similar to that? Certainly not. But $12-14 million a year is reasonable, for three to four years. According to Over The Cap, $14 million a year would tie for 10th among safeties in per-year average right now.
By extending Gardner-Johnson, now as opposed to later, the Lions would secure a key piece of their secondary for the foreseeable future and do so before his price possibly rises.