Eagles top 25

CJGJ returns and lands a key spot on most important Eagles list

C.J. Gardner-Johnson takes his spot on the list of most important Eagles of 2024

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2024 season.

25. Brandon Graham
24. Nakobe Dean
23. Milton Williams
22. Jake Elliott
21. Nolan Smith
20. Cooper DeJean
19. Reed Blankenship
18. Tyler Steen
17. Devin White
16. Quinyon Mitchell
15. Jordan Davis
14. Landon Dickerson
13. C.J. Gardner-Johnson

The Eagles missed C.J. Gardner-Johnson in 2023. So they made things right this offseason.

After one season with the Detroit Lions, Gardner-Johnson is back in Philadelphia on a three-year, $27 million contract. After the way things ended between the Eagles and CJGJ in the 2023 offseason (it got a bit ugly) both sides deserve some credit for coming back together.

The Eagles undoubtedly missed Gardner-Johnson’s play-making ability last year. In limited time during the Super Bowl season, Gardner-Johnson had 6 interceptions in just 12 games. The entire Eagles team last year had 9 picks.

But aside from that, the Eagles also just missed Gardner-Johnson’s swagger. It’ll be good to get that back on the field.

“It was important,” general manager Howie Roseman said this week at the NFL’s annual league meetings. “It was important to bring in guys who are all relatively young, as free agents go, and all have tremendous football character. And mentality is actually the word. We want guys with (that) mentality.

“We want guys that reflect the city, that reflect the style that we want to play on offense and defense. So, obviously, you want talent too from these guys but I think that would be accurate to say. We were looking to regain our swagger and mentality back. Obviously, what happened at the end of the year didn’t feel good, wasn’t acceptable for any of us. To get players who can kind of bring that and have that motivation and that mentality (was important).”

There’s no question that Gardner-Johnson will bring some juice back to a defense that was all squeezed out in the second half of 2023.

But at lot has changed since the Super Bowl and Gardner-Johnson will now be part of a starting duo with Reed Blankenship in Vic Fangio’s defense. While there were some veteran safeties with ties to Fangio out there in free agency, the Eagles opted to bring back the 26-year-old Gardner-Johnson instead.

Not only is CJGJ still young but he’s relatively inexperienced at safety. He spent the first few years of his career playing nickel corner in New Orleans and didn’t move full-time to safety until he got to Philly in 2022. And it’s not like he played much in 2023. He was limited to just 3 regular season games with the Lions because of injury — but he did return in the playoffs and played well.

The Eagles needed to get younger in their secondary and bringing back Gardner-Johnson is a way to do that. And the team hopes that because of his relative inexperience, he’s still growing as a safety. Fangio won’t hesitate to use Gardner-Johnson’s versatility either.

While a lot has changed with the Eagles in the last year, Gardner-Johnson says he’s changed too. His pec injury and long layoff in 2023 taught him a lot.

“I learned myself,” Gardner-Johnson said in March. “I figured out ball isn’t always about you. It’s about 50 other guys out there, the front office. So getting hurt and taking a step back and not being the focal point made me realize I’m going to be a part of something greater and better than where I’m at. I want to be able to take that next step and I think I made the right decision.”

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