When the NFL offseason started the two biggest priorities for Eagles fans were to bring back Jason Kelce and C.J. Gardner Johnson. The Eagles were able to bring Kelce back on a one-year deal but failed to do so with Gardener-Johnson. C.J. inked a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions for $8 million with $6.5 million guaranteed.
When the news first dropped that C.J. was headed to Detroit the reaction was, how could we not have offered that? Coming off a league-leading 6 interceptions we didn’t offer him more than $6.5 million guaranteed? All the reports coming out of the Novacare complex had been stating that the Eagles were making a hard push to keep C.J. It was not shortly after the news dropped that Jeff McLane of the Inquirer tweeted that the Eagles “made a multi-year offer early in FA”, “he was looking for more”, and “they moved on, signed Bradberry, extended Slay”. The anger at Howie Roseman for not being able to get a deal done quickly turned towards C.J.
Based on how things turned out, it seems like the Eagles’ original offseason plan was to bring back C.J. and Bradberry while moving off of Slay. It was reported that the Eagles were going to cut Slay, then ended up giving him an extension. It seems that the Eagles realized that C.J. was not going to take their offer and made a hard pivot to make sure they did not lose Slay as well. Whatever you think of Slay moving forward, the team next year is better with him on it rather than without.
With that being said I would have rather had C.J. under contract than Slay for the next 3 years. Slay will play next season at 32 years old and will more than likely lose a step in the next few years. C.J. is only 25 years old and has yet to enter his prime. C.J.’s agency tweeted that the Eagles’ offer was a 3-year $24 million deal with $17 million in year 3. With the way that contract is set up, he would only earn $7 million in the first two years of the contract. Even though the total number is high, it’s not surprising that he turned that contract down. It remains unclear if that was the Eagles’ first offer or their final offer. Nonetheless, either C.J. or his agent misreads the market. It seemed that no other team was willing to offer him a long-term contract and he settled for a prove-it deal. It was reported that the Eagles were allowed to match the deal the Lions were offering but declined. Either they do not have much money left to spend, or they just did not value him that highly. The Eagles notoriously have not placed much monetary value on the Safety position.
While C.J. saw the leaked deal as disrespectful, it is not uncommon for a player to take a pay cut to play for a winning team. Both Fletcher Cox and James Bradberry both talked to reporters about how they had more lucrative offers but chose to stay in Philadelphia because of the fans, the city, the organization, and most importantly the chance to win the Super Bowl. So while C.J. may have thought the deal was disrespectful, he is choosing immediate money over a greater chance for a Championship. It is also important to note that Jalen Hurts is due for a contract. While this will not affect this year’s salary cap much, because he was a second-round pick, his new cap hit will show up on the 2024 cap. So while guys like Cox, Kelce, and Graham took one-year higher money deals, the multi-year deals will have lower cap hits. For example, James Bradberry who signed a 3 year $38 million deal, only has a $4.885 million cap hit in 2024 according to spotrac.com
C.J. has been very outspoken on social media his whole time in Philadelphia, but now he has turned toward the fans. Many Eagles fans have turned on C.J. after he turned down more total money to go to Detroit. C.J. has responded with some “tweets and deletes” including “Hurts don’t it”, “Philly fans call me overrated……. y’all was just my friend …switch ups” and saying he was “blackballed” by the Eagles. He also said in his press conference with the Lions that he thought the Lions have a little better of a roster than the Eagles team that just went to the Super Bowl. While the Lions have a bright future, they are not better than the Eagles. C.J. can be mad that Eagles fans are upset but let’s not act like every single Eagles fan was clamoring for him to come back. After every flirty tweet with another fan base, he was bombarded with love and support from the Philadelphia faithful. There were numerous accounts every single day trying to will the Eagles to bring the Safety back. There are even people still, like myself, who agree that he should not have taken the Eagles’ offer if there was a better multi-year offer on the table. But calling Eagles fans “switch-ups” because they are upset you took a one-year deal in Detroit, instead of a multi-year offer here with just under 4 times more million dollars in total money, is just not fair.