Just two games into his stint with his new team, Detroit Lions starting safety CJ Gardner-Johnson is expected to potentially miss the remainder of the 2023 regular season with an injury.
During the Monday Night Football doubleheader to cap off Week 2, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweeted out that Gardner-Johnson is feared to have suffered a torn pec, which would likely cost him the majority (if not all) of the season.
#Lions DB CJ Gardner-Johnson is feared to have suffered a a torn pec in Sunday?s game, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. The playmaker had been a big part of Detroit?s defense. Now out indefinitely, potentially for the season. pic.twitter.com/lpWTKG7rUY
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2023
It's a brutal loss for the Lions, who spent the offseason heavily investing in their secondary. Gardner-Johnson was brought in on a one-year, $6.5 million contract in free agency despite expecting to draw a much higher price tag after leading the NFL with six interceptions in 2022. The Lions also signed Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency while taking Alabama defensive back Brian Branch in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Gardner-Johnson was expected to lead Detroit's new-look secondary. After a successful college career with the Florida Gators, Gardner-Johnson was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He spent his first three NFL seasons in Louisiana before landing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022, where he became a key playmaker with 67 total tackles, eight pass breakups, and six interceptions in just 12 regular season games.
Expectations were high for Gardner-Johnson, but now his future is up in the air. Even if Gardner-Johnson returns for a late postseason run, the Lions defensive back will need to have a productive late-season surge in order to secure a long-term deal as a free agent in the 2024 offseason. Otherwise, he could be looking at another smaller, short-term deal like he received from the Lions.
For Detroit, a 1-1 start still has them in the driver's seat of the NFC North. However, with a couple more injuries to the secondary (or even the defense), a division title could become a whole lot harder to accomplish.
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