Detroit Lions sign top free agent safety CJ Gardner-Johnson to 1-year deal

Brad Holmes continues to address secondary in free agency

C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Kevin Sabitus, 2023 Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Lions continue to dominate the defensive back market in free agency, signing free agent safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson to a one-year deal, according to reports.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Sunday night (March 19) that Gardner-Johnson and the Lions agreed to a one-year contract worth up to $8 million for the 2023 season.

Gardner-Johnson was the top remaining safety in free agency, according to Pro Football Focus. The 25-year-old picked off six passes this season with the Philadelphia Eagles despite missing five games due to injury.

Lions General Manager Brad Holmes isn’t wasting any time addressing perhaps the team’s greatest weakness from a year ago: the secondary.

He signed Cam Sutton to a three-year deal hours after the NFL’s negotiation period opened, and added Emmanuel Moseley the next day. Detroit is also expected to bring back free agent safety Will Harris.

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Gardner-Johnson proved last season that he can fill in at cornerback, giving the Lions some valuable versatility in the secondary. He allowed just two catches for five years while filling at the position against the New York Giants the final week of the regular season.

Detroit began the offseason as a trendy pick to win the NFC North Division in 2023, and this free agent class should only add fuel to that fire. It also gives Holmes options in the first round of the draft, where the Lions have picks Nos. 6 and 18.

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Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.