If any general manager were going to go unconventional on cutdown day, you figured it would be Howie Roseman.
The Eagles general manager, a riverboat gambler on his most conservative days, made a bold trade Tuesday with the Saints trying to improve his weakest position group.
With the regular season less than two weeks away, Roseman shook up his secondary by trading for a defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson … who is expected to play safety.
In the current NFL, the trend is for defensive backs to cross-train and play safety, too, as the positions are somewhat similar.
Safety became available when the Eagles surprisingly released Anthony Harris. Harris started 14 games in his one season with the Eagles. There were no rumblings in training camp that Harris would be released.
Without knowing how the trade will turn out, credit Roseman for an interesting move. He went out and landed a player who is feisty and boisterous and who could plug a clear position weakness.
“He loves football,” Roseman said. “He’s got a passion for the game and he isn’t afraid to show it.”
Gardner-Johnson has quite a reputation among offensive coaches.
- “Dangerous. Dangerous,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “You gotta be careful with him, throwing the ball at him. He’s just been around the ball a ton in his career and making plays.
- “Trash-talking — I know he gets the rap for that. That’s part of his competitiveness. I’d lie if I said I don’t trash-talk a little bit.”
Gardner-Johnson, 24, started 11 games last season and had three interceptions. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.
The Eagles also received the Saints’ seventh-round pick in 2025 while New Orleans received the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in 2023 and the later of their sixth-rounders in 2024.
NFL Network reported a breakdown in contract talks between Gardner-Johnson and the Saints. “We wouldn’t have made the trade if we weren’t comfortable with the person and where he was,” Roseman said.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gardner-Johnson has made more plays on the ball from his slot defensive back position (24) than any player in the league since the 2018 season.
Roseman talked about how the trade happened with New Orleans.
- “First of all, there’s a lot of conversations during the preseason, certainly in the last couple weeks,” Roseman said. “You’re trying to find teams that have fits for what you’re looking for.
- “Not that we were unhappy with our defensive backfield, our safety position. But we’re looking for opportunities to get better.
- “When we look at New Orleans and the depth that they had on their roster we thought maybe it would be a fit. Then the conversations kinda came together in the last 48 hours.”
Gardner-Johnson has played some safety but mostly has played slot defensive back.
- “This guy played safety,” Roseman said. “We evaluated him as a safety in college, too, so this isn’t like it’s totally fresh for him.
- “This is something that you see more and more in this league …You saw it when we got Malcolm [Jenkins] here in Philly.
- “You see a couple of our guys — not just the guy we got today —but a couple of our guys doing it because the league is about coverage, the league is about speed, it is about athleticism and instincts and so a lot of those guys when you’re playing the nickel position that translates to what they’re trying to do also at the safety position.”
RECEIVING THE BAD NEWS
NFL teams had to trim rosters from 80 to 53 players Tuesday. The toughest cuts were at wide receiver, a new-found source of strength for the Eagles.
Four players were locks — A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal. The Eagles kept only five, opting for former first-round bust Jalen Reagor, who bounced back and excelled this summer.
Gone are camp darlings Deon Cain, Britain Covey and Olympic hurdler Devon Allen. Gone is John Hightower. Fan favorite Greg Ward was placed on injured reserve.
Every Eagles fan everywhere wanted Allen to survive the cutdown day. He is one of the world’s fastest hurdlers and he used that speed against the Browns to score on a 55-yard pass.
Allen also showed considerable special teams chops — the path fans hoped would land him a spot on the roster.
Allen was a stretch to make the roster. The 27-year-old hadn’t played football since 2016 at the University of Oregon, instead concentrating on his world-class track career.
OTHER OFFENSIVE CUTS
The Eagles only kept three running backs — Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell. They cut Jason Huntley and rookie Kennedy Brooks, both of whom should look deep in the mirror. There was a golden opportunity for one to make the roster but they didn’t show enough in camp.
At tight end, the Eagles kept Jack Stoll and rookie Grant Calcaterra to back-up Dallas Goedert. Gone are veteran Richard Rodgers and Noah Togiai.
Two quarterbacks are on the roster, Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew. They waived Reid Sinnett and rookie Carson Strong, who did nothing to earn a roster spot.
“We will have a third quarterback for the 69- or 70-man roster, for sure,” Roseman said.
The Eagles cut several players who had legitimate chances to make the roster — defensive tackles Marvin Wilson and Renell Wren, safety Andre Chachere and cornerback Tay Gowan, who acquired as part of the Zach Ertz trade with Arizona.
Three undrafted free agents made the 53-man roster — safety Reed Blankenship, cornerback Josh Jobe and offensive lineman Josh Sills. Bravo to them for beating the odds.
NFL 53-man rosters often change as waived players become available. Roseman suggested as much.
“We’ll see what happens here in the next 24 hours with the roster,” Roseman said. “It’s a fluid process and we have a lot of time to the next game.”