Lions Contract With C.J. Gardner-Johnson Gets ‘No-Brainer’ Grade

C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Getty C.J. Gardner-Johnson runs with an intercepted pass in 2022.

The Detroit Lions have done a nice job to fill their needs in free agency well, and the biggest example of this was their addition of C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Somehow, the defensive back lingered on the market ahead of the second full week of free agency. The Lions didn’t waste any time scooping him up, which was to the benefit of the organization and a needy defense.

When the numbers were revealed – a reported one-year deal worth up to $8 million dollars – the signing only seemed more genius. ESPN sees that when they went to grade the latest round of signings from this week.

Writer Seth Walder took a closer look at the moves in an insider piece, and gave the Lions an ‘A’ grade for the signing of Gardner-Johnson.

“It’s a heck of a move by the Lions to continue to invest in their secondary, their biggest weakness last season. They had the league’s fourth-most efficient offense … and the 31st-most efficient defense. They’ve now added Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and Gardner-Johnson in free agency,” Walder wrote.

As it relates to the deal, Walder seemed most impressed by the fact that the Lions were able to get him into the building on a cheap, prove-it type deal.

“Now he only gets $8 million in free agency, though the safety market has been fairly cheap outside of Jessie Bates’ contract. Still, I’m shocked at how cheap this contract is; I did not see Donovan Wilson signing a larger total contract than Gardner-Johnson. If his market was this poor, it makes sense Gardner-Johnson took a prove-it deal — especially being just 25 years old. For the Lions, this is a no-risk move to add a defensive playmaker for a low cost. It’s a no-brainer,” Walder wrote.

As a whole, the move to add Gardner-Johnson can be seen as a win for the team, and a situation where the Lions couldn’t lose relative to the contract the veteran was signed for.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson Brings Leadership to Lions

What does Gardner-Johnson bring to his new team? In his own words, some veteran experience that he has picked up in other stops that he can use to benefit the Lions.

Speaking with the media on Monday, March 20, Gardner-Johnson explained that as he has watched the Lions, he has been impressed with what he has seen from the outside, and it’s a good situation for him to be joining relative to what he has already learned.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson speaks to the media on March 20Hear from defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson as he speaks to the media on March 20, 2023. Subscribe to the Lions YT Channel: More Lions NFL Action: #DetroitLions #Lions #NFL Keep up-to-date on all things Lions: Visit Follow: Follow: Like:

When he gets to the Lions, Gardner-Johnson believes his experience in some veteran defensive backfields can pay off. Specifically, he believes the team’s mindset has to be consistent on the back end, and that’s something he has learned while playing with tons of big-name talents in the league.

“I’ve played with a lot of veteran secondaries so I kind of understand the task at hand. I think being around Michael Jenkins, Marshawn Lattimore, Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Marcus Epps (helps). Before I got traded, being around Tyrann Mathieu. The standard that you set as a defensive back is something that you got to carry with yourself. It’s got to be the same every day. Tt can’t change and I think the model for the group on the back end is, the game is won and lost by us no matter what. Understanding that I can trust my left corner my right nickel, my left safety, my linebacker. It’s a whole collective effort,” Gardner-Johnson explained.

Being able to land a player with this kind of experience on a one-year deal for under $10 million dollars seems like a significant win for the Lions. That’s why it’s tough to give this move anything other than a perfect score for the team.

Gardner-Johnson can bring a winning edge to the Lions that helps get them over the hump for 2023.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s Career Stats & Highlights

There’s another reason Gardner-Johnson looks like a major value for the Lions, and it revolves around what he has been able to do on the field thus far in his career.

Working with Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn in New Orleans who was his defensive back coach, Gardner-Johnson put up five interceptions and three sacks, and was a stable force as he learned the league. With the Lions in need of defensive backs, Gardner-Johnson will be a familiar name to help the team over the hump.

In his career, Gardner-Johnson has posted 228 tackles and 11 total interceptions. He was a standout in New Orleans until a 2022 trade that sent him to New Orleans in exchange for a fifth and sixth-round pick in 2024.

Highlights show a hard hitting player who can cover a lot of ground on the back end, something Detroit was missing from their 32nd ranked defense in 2022.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson HighlightsLeague-High 6 Interceptions this season in 11 games Thanks for watching :) Check out other Highlights such as: Rashid Shaheed or Tariq Woolen

Gardner-Johnson is a player that is gritty in the backfield and could have an understanding of the scheme the Lions are running under Glenn. With that in mind, he’s even more of a value for the Lions when all is said and done.

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