The Cincinnati Bengals might lose both of their starting safeties in free agency. While the hope is that they can keep Vonn Bell in the black and orange stripes, Jessie Bates feels like a goner. Even if the team can keep Bell, I'd still be all for them bringing in Eagles safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
This past season was Gardner-Johnson's first in Philadelphia as the New Orleans Saints traded him there for basically nothing. He was a fourth-round pick by the Saints in the 2019 NFL Draft and, as expected, excelled with the Eagles.
Now Gardner-Johnson hits free agency and has a chance to earn a nice contract this offseason. Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus listed landing spots for the top 50 free agents and for CJGJ, it was the Bengals.
"Assuming that Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell leave the Bengals, Cincinnati will need to find two new safeties for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Gardner-Johnson would be a great addition to this defense, and it would also follow the trend of former Saints playing for the Bengals. Gardner-Johnson had a great year taking the ball away, leading the league with six interceptions in the regular season, but he was an average coverage defender after that, as evidenced by his 65.9 coverage grade this year. His experience with the Saints and Eagles also has helped showcase his versatility, as he was primarily a slot corner in New Orleans before transitioning to safety with the Eagles and would be a nice chess piece for Anarumo to work with."- Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger
Bengals and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are a match made in heaven
More than likely, if the Bengals can retain Bell, they probably don't seek another safety in free agency. They'd have Bell and Dax Hill as the two starters because after all, they always tend to draft a year ahead of their needs so Hill was drafted with the intent on replacing Bates in 2023.
What Gardner-Johnson could bring to this defense though is exciting to think about and he'd fit in well with Lou Anarumo and company. He's a total ball hawk, intercepting six passes in 2022. He'd be an absolute game-wrecker for the Bengals defense but I don't see them coughing up a massive chunk of change for him if Bell returns.
If Bell doesn't come back, however, that's a different story and you'd have to think this guy would become a popular target for Cincinnati. He's projected to earn a three-year deal worth $34.5 million with an annual salary of $11.5 million, according to PFF, which isn't a bad deal for a near-elite safety.
What do you think, Bengals fans? Would you like to see this happen?