Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman essentially took advantage of an arbitrage opportunity in the acquisition of safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson from the New Orleans Saints. Many of the initial reactions to the trade centered around the surprisingly low return the Saints got – Roseman only gave up a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick, while the Eagles received a 2025 seventh-rounder along with their new safety.
How was Roseman able to acquire a starting caliber safety for such a cheap price? Well, the Saints weren’t trading away a safety. As far as they were concerned, Gardner-Johnson was a slot cornerback asking for an outside cornerback or safety payday.
On top of that, the 24-year-old was going into the final year of his rookie contract. If the Saints weren’t willing to give Gardner-Johnson that big of a raise, any compensation in a trade beat letting him walk at the end of the season for nothing as the $4 million a year gap between the two sides was too much to bridge, according to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com.
However, as far as the Eagles appear to be concerned, Gardner-Johnson is a safety who warrants such a contract, and his versatility fits their scheme perfectly. Getting him that cheap in terms of trade assets was a no-brainer.
That gap in valuations was a key component of the trade for all parties, as noted by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
Eagles Appear Likely to Extend Gardner-Johnson At Some Point
While the Eagles don’t speak about players’ contract situations, you don’t have to read too much between the lines to understand that Roseman seems confident that he can work out a deal with Gardner-Johnson.
“I don’t want to get into anyone’s contract situation, but obviously we wouldn’t have made the trade if we weren’t comfortable with the person and where he was,” Roseman said in his August 30 press conference. “You never want to rule anything out with any of our players on our team, but if I start getting into anyone’s contract situation, I have to address all the other guys, too.”
The Salary Increase Is Millions Per Year
As to the difference in salary that could be coming Gardner-Johnson’s way, there are some obvious parallels. For an example of the kind of money slot cornerbacks are currently getting, look no farther than the deal the Eagles gave slot corner Avonte Maddox.
The 26-year-old is on a 3-year, $22.5 million contract, according to Spotrac. So that’s an average of $7.5 million per year, which is in line with some of the best paydays for slot corners in recent years. Ironically, the Eagles also gave Maddox a stint at safety earlier in his career before deciding he was a better fit in the slot.
Meanwhile, the top 13 safeties in the league are on deals with average values of $10 million per year or more, according to Spotrac. There are 22 safeties making $7.5 million or more per year. On top of that, the league is willing to pay a premium for safeties who have “positional fluidity,” as one former general manager told Heavy NFL Insider Matt Lombardo.
When considering the math, this looks like a win-win-win situation. The Eagles acquire a potential long-term starter at safety for next to nothing in the trade, and are likely content to pay him the market rate if the transition works out. The Saints get a couple draft picks back for a player they were going to let walk at the end of the season anyway. Gardner-Johnson gets a chance to switch to a better paid position and an opportunity to maximize the value of his next contract.