This upcoming season will mark the fourth and final year of C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s rookie contract with the New Orleans Saints. What should fans expect from him in 2022?
The New Orleans Saints were somehow able to snag C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Florida product at one time or another was considered a fringe first-round pick during the 2019 draft yet fell to Day 3 where the Saints gladly scooped him up.
Since joining the Saints, Gardner-Johnson has fit right into the NOLA secondary and has become a fan favorite. This past season, he totaled 46 tackles, seven defended passes, four tackles for loss, four QB hits, three interceptions, and two sacks through 12 games. He missed five games due to injury and the Saints’ defense certainly missed him when he was out.
Saints Roster: What should fans expect from C.J. Gardner-Johnson?
With this being the final year of Gardner-Johnson’s rookie contract, he has a major incentive to ball out so that he can get a big-time deal next offseason. His ability to play anywhere in the secondary will make him a popular target when free agency does kick off next season. That’s assuming, of course, that New Orleans doesn’t slap the franchise tag on him.
Mike Clay of ESPN put projections together for every team and every key player. He projected that Gardner-Johnson would be on the field for 861 snaps while racking up 68 tackles, 1.7 sacks, 1.7 interceptions. This feels like a fairly reasonable projection for Gardner-Johnson.
Gardner-Johnson has shown that he’s able to not only force turnovers but he’s able to get to the quarterback as well. That’s why those numbers seem low for him but safeties don’t typically record a ton of sacks.
As mentioned above, C.J. Gardner-Johnson is entering a contract year and the Saints should reap the benefits of that with his prolific performance. I’d be okay with the team trying to extend him before the season gets underway but if that doesn’t happen, the incentive will be there for the Saints defensive back to prove himself this season.
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