Internet Erupts for Lions’ ‘Steal’ Deal With Top Free Agent Defender Left

C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Getty C.J. Gardner-Johnson in a 2023 game with Philadelphia.

The Detroit Lions are trying to boost up their roster for 2023, and scored a major bonus as it relates to that, reaching another huge free agency agreement.

On Sunday, March 19, the Lions managed to secure a one-year deal worth up to $8 million dollars with former Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The deal with Gardner-Johnson was a bit stunning from the Detroit perspective because the team hasn’t invested in big name players. Gardner-Johnson was a top free agent left on the market for the team to consider.

After the move was revealed, Twitter began to offer some hot reactions. As Ari Meirov of The 33rd Team tweeted, the Lions have added in free agency and still have lots of draft capitol to play with. It’s loading up as he sees it.

“Lions offseason so far: Signed S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Signed RB David Montgomery. Signed CB Cameron Sutton. Signed CB Emmanuel Moseley. Signed G Graham Glasgow. Own picks 6, 18, 48 and 55 in the Draft. Detroit is loading up,” Meirov wrote in the tweet.

In addition to that, the Lions have a player in Gardner-Johnson that they know given their history with New Orleans. As a result, as Adam Schefter pointed out, the Lions are happy to get him to Detroit.

“Lions’ HC Dan Campbell and DC Aaron Glenn know just what they’re getting in former Eagles’ safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. They worked with him in New Orleans and are excited to now bring him to Detroit,” Schefter tweeted.

The fit of Gardner-Johnson with the Lions has been discussed for some time. Many have seen it as obvious, and that much is true for Brett Whitefield. As he said, it’s the kind of fit that made too much sense at this point.

“If you listen to Steven O’Rourke and I on the Take Talk pod you know we have been talking about Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Lions as the most obvious team/player fit of free agency for some time. Just made too much sense,” Whitefield tweeted.

The decision for Philadelphia to let Gardner-Johnson walk was not a popular one for fans. One particular fan believes the Lions got a steal by signing Gardner-Johnson to a one-year deal.

“WHY COULDN’T HOWIE MATCH THIS!? Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was worth more than this too. Lions got a steal,” the account tweeted.

As a whole, the Lions have managed to overhaul the secondary, and as a result, some see them as a favorite in the NFC for 2023.

“Now they’ve added Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. A complete rehaul of the Lions secondary in 2023 after finishing 31st in yards per attempt allowed, 23rd in pass defense DVOA, and 30th in dropback EPA. Should be one of the favorites in the NFC,” the account tweeted.

Many, like Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, see the Lions as favorites to win the NFC North as a result of the work this offseason.

“The Lions might win the NFC North,” Breer tweeted.

How about players? Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs was thrilled with the move, and likes the fact the team got a dawg for the defensive backfield.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about that’s a dawg We just got on board!!!! Literally,” Jacobs tweeted.

This addition was a big one for the Lions in many ways.

Lions Defensive Backfield Boosted Significantly

It wasn’t a surprise to see folks saying the backfield needed to be targeted in free agency. The Lions struggled last season, and their statistical problems pointed to the need for some big upgrades.

Detroit finished 30th in pass defense, allowing 26 touchdowns and over 245 yards per-game on average. Worse, they allowed a total of 4,179 yards through the air. That points to a group that simply didn’t get much going all season long.

Enter Detroit’s newest players, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. That is quality work for the Lions at three big spots, specifically cornerback and safety, two of the neediest spots on the team.

As Anthony Cervino tweeted, the Lions grasped their weakness and addressed it in a major way, which is significant for them.

“Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Cameron Sutton. Emmanuel Moseley Lions understood their primary handicap entering the offseason and reacted accordingly,” Cervino tweeted.

It’s tough to look at what the Lions have done and not feel excited relative to how the team managed to turn things around at one of their needy spots on the field. Now, the defense will benefit in a big way.

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

In terms of players with a tie to Detroit’s staff, Gardner-Johnson takes the title of an impending free agent that the Lions might look at for their backfield.

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

In his career, Gardner-Johnson has posted 228 tackles and 11 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 in 2022.

Gardner-Johnson is a player that is gritty in the backfield and could have an understanding of the scheme the Lions are running under Aaron Glenn.

To that end, he’s a good choice for the Lions, who are looking for a young player to build around at the spot. Now, they have one.

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