Ex-Lions Safety Returns to Eagles After Injury-Struck Season in Detroit - Sport News

Ex-Lions Safety Returns to Eagles After Injury-Struck Season in Detroit

The Detroit Lions took a big swing in free agency last year, signing interception leader C.J. Gardner-Johnson away from the Philadelphia Eagles in an effort to bolster the once-struggling secondary.

Sources: C.J. Gardner-Johnson is returning to the Eagles on a 3-year deal

After one injury-struck season in Detroit, Gardner-Johnson is now headed back to Philadelphia.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on March 12 that the Eagles signed Gardner-Johnson on a three-year deal worth up to $33 million. Gardner-Johnson appeared in just three games for the Lions last season as he suffered a torn pectoral and missed the majority of the season, returning for the playoffs.

He spent the 2023 season with the Eagles, making a league-high six interceptions while adding a career-high 67 tackles.

Ceedy Duce’s Short Tenure in Detroit

Gardner-Johnson, who announced last season that he planned to go by Ceedy Duce, made a quick impression in Detroit. Head coach Dan Campbell shared praise for the safety during minicamp in June, saying he brought an infectious energy to the locker room.

“He’s got a contagious energy,” Campbell said on June 7. “One of the reasons C.J. [Gardner-Johnson] is that way is because that’s how he gets his engine going. In turn, that just spills over into the offense and your teammates.

“You can’t help — the level of intensity. It raises. I think that makes everybody around you better and more competitive.”

The energy did not translate much to the field, as Gardner-Johnson was hurt in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and placed on injured reserve. He returned for the season finale, ending the season with 17 total tackles and one interception.

Gardner-Johnson did have some highlights in the playoffs, making an interception in a divisional-round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he also committed a costly penalty in the NFC Championship game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, delivering a blindside block on wide receiver Deebo Samuel that brought back an interception return.

The Lions defense struggled in the game, surrendering a 17-point lead as the 49ers scored 27 unanswered points to win and advance to the Super Bowl.

Lions Add to Secondary

While the Lions lost Gardner-Johnson back to his former team, they were able to bring back another one of last season’s big acquisitions. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who also joined the Lions last offseason in an effort to bolster the secondary but was lost to a season-ending injury, signed a one-year deal to return to Detroit.

The Lions also landed cornerback Carlton Davis in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Detroit sent a third-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and sixth-round picks in each of the next two drafts.

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted, Davis is a versatile defensive back who can play either cornerback slot and will be able to take the pressure off Cam Sutton to guard opponents’ No. 1 receivers.

“Davis had two interceptions in 12 starts for the Bucs last season and has been a full-time starter since his rookie year,” Birkett wrote. “He allowed four touchdowns and had a 96.1 passer rating against last year, according to Pro Football Reference, but missed five games with an assortment of injuries.”

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