Reports: Eagles bring back DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson

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C.J. Gardner-Johnson agreed to a three-year deal to return to the Philadelphia Eagles after leaving for the Detroit Lions in free agency last year, ESPN and the Detroit Free-Press reported Tuesday.

A demonstrative defensive back who lines up at safety but thrives near the line of scrimmage, Gardner-Johnson missed all but three games in the 2023 regular season because of a torn pectoral muscle. He was placed on injured reserve following the Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks but worked to get back for the end of the season and playoffs.

Gardner-Johnson, 26, can make up to $33 million over the course of the deal, ESPN reported.

Described by Lions coach Dan Campbell as part of the heart-and-soul of Detroit’s defense, the Eagles found out how much he meant to the team only after his exit. Gardner-Johnson was a key starter for the Eagles during their Super Bowl runner-up finish two seasons ago.

Last season, general manager Howie Roseman used multiple avenues, including the draft and a trade with the Titans in October to acquire former All-Pro Kevin Byard, but safety remained a position of weakness through the 2023 season.

By reeling Gardner-Johnson back in, the Eagles fill one of their lone roster needs in a free agency period that includes agreements with running back Saquon Barkley and re-signing guard Landon Dickerson to a massive deal (reportedly $84 million).

Gardner-Johnson was acquired by the Eagles from the Saints in 2022. He played for New Orleans from 2019-21.