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Mailbag: Will C.J. Gardner-Johnson still be a Detroit Lion in 2024?

C.J. Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions in free agency. Is it already a foregone conclusion that he’ll be gone in 2024?

Philadelphia Eagles v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

C.J. Gardner-Johnson was one of the Detroit Lions’ biggest free agent signings this offseason, with even the Lions caught a bit off guard by his availability. Gardner-Johnson has already made an impact as a leader in the team’s revamped secondary, and he’s likely to make just as big of an impact on the field. But how long will that last in Detroit?

Obviously, it’s a bit weird to be talking about Gardner-Johnson’s future without him playing a single snap for Detroit, but the fact of the matter is the Lions signed the Pro Bowl-level talent to a one-year deal, and it’ll be curious to see if he stick around beyond the 2023 season.

Many seem to believe that Gardner-Johnson is using the Lions as a springboard to get a huge payout next year. By reuniting with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, he’s likely to continue being productive on the field, and while he didn’t get a huge payday, he’s probably expecting one next offseason. Will Detroit be able to afford to re-sign him, when they’ll also have to consider extensions for Amon-Ra St. Brown, Penei Sewell, and even Jared Goff?

And on the Lions' side, there seems to be a natural successor in second-round rookie Brian Branch. But is there truly enough overlap for a one-for-one replacement, and will Branch be ready for a starting role in 2024?

This was one of our bigger topics of our debut Twitter Spaces call-in show, and the staff was a little split. Erik Schlitt thinks the Lions are going to make a big play to keep Gardner-Johnson around beyond this season.

“I think (Aaron Glenn) understands how to work with him,” Schlitt said. “So I think he’s a guy that’s going to be high on the re-sign list for me, if he pans out the way I think he will. Because everything that I see—the leadership. What we saw with Jamaal (Williams) is that they’re not scared to move on from a leader, but at the same time, there’s a huge benefit in keeping your leaders intact as well.”

I’m a little more skeptical.

“You can’t pay everybody, so C.J. Gardner-Johnson is going to be part of that tough conversation,” I said. “(Despite) everything we just said, I still am tipping the scales towards they’re going to need money for other things, and with Brian Branch, I think there is enough overlap there that it would probably be smart to just pass the torch there.”

That entire conversation starts around the 43:00 mark of the show and runs a full 11 minutes.

Other topics on this week’s show:

  • Who could be this year’s Malcolm Rodriguez—making an impact out of nowhere? (3:00)
  • How is the long-snapper battle playing out so far? (7:20)
  • What are the most interesting “fringe” roster battles on the horizon? (12:30)
  • Was there anything unique about this year’s OTAs/minicamp compared to previous years? (26:30)
  • Who are the most irreplaceable players on offense, defense? (33:45)
  • Any concern that most of the Lions’ division games are late in the season? (56:00)
  • Are you scared of the Lions being overhyped? (1:01:40)
  • Is there concern that James Houston has taken a step back in camp? (1:07:30)
  • What is one thing you’re confident about in the 2023 Detroit Lions? (1:15:00)

You can listen to the entire show below:

To take part in our next Twitter Spaces call-in show, make sure you’re following us on Twitter and be on the lookout both here on the website and on social media for the announcement of our next show (likely to take place on Saturday mornings).

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.