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CBS Sports projects Colts as free agent landing spot for Lions safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

Could former Detroit Lions safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson be signed to shore up the Colts secondary?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to CBS Sports Cody Benjamin, the Indianapolis Colts are the projected free agency landing spot for Detroit Lions safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson:

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

DET • SS • #2

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His borderline-unhinged aggression makes him a nice fit for Dan Campbell’s squad, but he’s a mercenary, likely to test the market once more. Ex-Eagles colleague Shane Steichen could use more help at free safety in Indy. Projected team: Colts

The 26 year old safety was limited to just 3 games (2 starts) last season in his so-far lone season with Detroit because of a torn pectoral that required a lengthy in-season I.R. stint.

However, the former 2019 4th round pick of the New Orleans Saints has always been highly regarded for his defensive versatility in the secondary. Even if it sometimes comes with a lot of personality, and that which sometimes can be seriously misplaced, as he now infamously was celebrating entirely too prematurely in the second quarter of the recent NFC Championship Game loss against the San Francisco 49ers, with a then comfortable 20-7 lead.

That being said, the Colts could use some help at starting safety, where Julian Blackmon is a pending free agent following a breakout campaign of sorts, and their defense has to find a more consistent and reliable option alongside him—if he’s ultimately re-signed, or maybe even as his potential replacement (*in a worst case free agency scenario).

Colts head coach Shane Steichen should be familiar with Gardner-Johnson from his time as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator during their Super Bowl appearance in 2022. That season, Gardner-Johnson had 67 tackles (61 solo), 5 tackles for loss, a whopping 6 interceptions (*co-leading the league), 8 passes defensed, and a sack during 12 starts for the NFC champions defense.

(For what it’s worth, and as a shameless plug, CGJ was a favorite of mine back in 2019 as a former standout for the Florida Gators defense (along with Ole Miss’s A.J. Brown in that draft class). but I’m biased. Both of whom would surprisingly later become teammates with the Eagles).

Gardner-Johnson would bring attitude, aggressiveness, ball-hawking, and versatility to the backend of the Colts defense (along with a lot of personality and some arguably unnecessary outside-the-whistle antics . . . and not to mention, he’s never played a full season NFL season with a bit of a lengthy injury history).

For those latter reasons, I’m still not convinced he’s a Chris Ballard guy when it’s all said and done — and would be surprised if he’s ultimately brought into Indianapolis (despite the obvious offseason need at starting safety right now).