Ryan Poles Breaks Silence on Bears’ Plans for CB Jaylon Johnson

Ryan Poles, Bears

Getty General manager Ryan Poles of the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Bears know the kind of player they have in Jaylon Johnson and are working toward a contract that reflects the esteem in which the franchise holds the cornerback.

Johnson is seeking a deal that makes him among the highest-paid defensive backs in the NFL, if not the highest. General manager Ryan Poles spoke with reporters on Tuesday, February 27, about the team’s intentions and efforts to reach a compromise with Johnson, which include avoiding the franchise tag if possible.

“I’d like to avoid the franchise tag for him,” Poles said, per the team’s official website. “I think there is really good space for us to find the middle ground. Again, we always have the tag to use, but I really would like to get something done long term.”

Advanced Metrics Say Bears CB Jaylon Johnson Was NFL’s Best in 2023

Jaylon Johnson Contract Chicago Bears Rumors

GettyChicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

A former second-round pick in 2020, Johnson authored a breakout season in his first contract year, which is magnificent timing as far as his negotiating leverage is concerned.

Pro Football Focus rated Johnson the best cornerback in all of football in 2023, based on its proprietary advanced metrics formula. Meanwhile, as far as hard statistics go, Johnson finished the year with 10 pass breakups, 4 interceptions and the first defensive TD of his career.

Concurrently, he allowed a collective completion percentage of 55.2% and a collective passer rating of 50.9 across 58 targets in 14 games, per Pro Football Reference. PFF’s calculations are slightly different, but equally impressive. According to that website, Johnson allowed 25 catches on 50 targets across 530 coverage snaps and boasts a collective passer rating allowed of just 33.3.

Regardless of the source and its specific numbers, Johnson is elite any way one slices it, which Poles made clear he understands on Tuesday.

We feel like we’ve done a really good job coming to the table strong and showing the respect that he’s due just in terms of his production through his career and really an emphasis on the turnovers he created this past year. Our expectation is that’s going to continue to go as he’s with the Bears.

When I say, “come strong,” that means cash flows are strong, guarantees are strong, the term is strong for him. Being with his age, there’s a really good opportunity to go back to the market again and continue to earn money and play well — and hopefully that’s with the Bears for a long period of time. … It takes two to tango and you’ve got to find a place that everyone feels comfortable with.

Jaylon Johnson Wants Bears to Make Him NFL’s Highest-Paid Cornerback

Jaylon Johnson Trade Decision

GettyChicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

Johnson will play next season, his fifth in the NFL, at the age of 25. He earned just $6.5 million over the course of his rookie deal, and Spotrac projects his market value at $15.7 million annually over the course of a new five-year contract ($78.7 million total).

While that amount of money would be a competitive salary as far as the CB pay scale goes league-wide, it would be a far cry from the richest deal for any defensive back. The Green Bay Packers pay Jaire Alexander a salary of $21 million per season, which is the highest annual average. The Cleveland Browns signed Denzel Ward to a five-year contract worth $100.5 million in 2022, which is the largest overall for any cornerback in the NFL.

Fresh off of his first Pro Bowl season and second-team All-Pro honors, Johnson has not been shy about what he believes he deserves.

“I don’t think it’s too much really to talk about,” Johnson said on January 17. “There’s no reason I can’t be the highest-paid corner in the league.”

Chicago can negotiate with Johnson until March 5, at which time the team must decide whether to use the franchise tag to keep the cornerback through 2024 at a one-year cost of $19.8 million or allow him to hit the open market.

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