You can debate the reasons all you want but the market has spoken for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, or at least the calendar foreshadows it has.
There aren’t too many reasons to surmise Gardner-Johnson is sitting on dueling offers for significant money in free agency. That’s just not how the modern NFL works. Budgets are allocated and drained quickly as organizations implement their offseason plans.
In the case of Gardner-Johnson, he was a virtually unanimous choice as one of the most impactful free agents to hit the market, coming off his rookie deal with a career year in which he tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney.
Before free agency started an ex-NFL general manager texted me saying “plays get you paid,” a nod toward the big money in free agency going to those who put their stamps on games.
That hasn’t been the case for Gardner-Johnson and the soon-to-be fifth-year pro has already tweeted and deleted about disrespect, which could either point to the NFL as a whole not putting him in the category outsiders did or the Eagles themselves who were the team that watched him make all those big plays and haven’t exactly been tripping over themselves to put him at the top of the market when it comes to the position.
It’s been Jesse Bates, who signed for a $16 million AAV with Atlanta, and everyone else at safety, including ex-Eagle Marcus Epps, who got two years from Las Vegas at $6M.
The best path forward for Gardner-Johnson at this point is likely going to be re-signing a one-year, prove-it deal with Philadelphia, perform at a high level again, perhaps with a little more consistency, and then get back to the market at age 26 next spring.
To date, the only real whispers about Gardner-Johnson have been the Eagles wanting him back, along with Denver being interested, a testament to his old coach in New Orleans, Sean Payton, now running the Broncos.
And Gardner-Johnson’s disrespect meter will likely decide the end game.