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Detroit Lions pounce on 2022’s NFL interception leader in free agency

Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions have just landed one of the top remaining players in free agency. Former Philadelphia Eagles star safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson won’t be trying to running it back in pursuit of a Super Bowl trophy in the City of Brotherly Love.

Instead, the 25-year-old Florida native will pack his bags for Detroit, where he becomes the latest piece trying to reshape a poorly-performing defense from a season ago.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Gardner-Johnson has agreed to a one-year contract worth up to $8 million.

It’s a bit interesting that there wasn’t a stronger market for Gardner-Johnson, who tied for the most interceptions in the NFL with six picks last season. Even more impressive is the fact that he did so despite playing in just 12 games with the Eagles.

Yet, the Lions are familiar with Gardner-Johnson from Campbell’s time with the New Orleans Saints, who dealt the safety to the Eagles prior to the start of the 2022 season. Now he’ll join a familiar face as they try to continue their ascent up the NFC North with an eye on a postseason spot this year.

Adding Gardner-Johnson on a one-year contract immediately gives the Lions another playmaker in the secondary but also removes any long-term risk should he not live up to expectations. Yet, he’s recorded an interception in each of his four seasons, so Gardner-Johnson’s ability to get in front of passes seems to check out, no matter where he plays.

If the Lions still want to add a safety in the draft, they can do so, adding more youth to the mix while possibly stumbling into a long-term solution. Either way, adding Gardner-Johnson now allows the front office to take a more patient approach during the NFL Draft, knowing they can always head back to the negotiation table when it comes time to discuss an extension with their newest addition to Aaron Glenn’s defense.

In short, it’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing that the Lions can afford to gamble on for one season at a rate of $8 million.

Related: Top NFL free agents of 2023: Ranking the best players available from 1-400