Top Bears Free Agent Set to ‘Get Paid’ This Offseason, Insider Says

Ryan Poles

Getty General Manager Ryan Poles of the Chicago Bears.

Jaylon Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Chicago Bears. Johnson is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler thinks the Bears starting cornerback is about to cash in.

Fowler listed Johnson in a group of players he feels “are not household names, but will get paid,” also noting the Bears CB could be one of the better available options at the position next offseason.

“The Bears corner has been a consistent starter and one of the better corners in the free agency class. Johnson doesn’t have the ball production through three games this year but has shown it over his career with 32 pass deflections,” Fowler wrote on October 3.

What Could Jaylon Johnson’s Value Be in Free Agency Next Year?

In three games so far this season, Johnson has allowed five catches on 12 targets for 73 yards, while not surrendering a touchdown in 91 coverage snaps (stats via Pro Football Focus). He has not been flagged once. So far, though his 42 games with the Bears, Johnson has allowed 114 receptions on 202 targets (56.4 %), with 28 pass breakups.

He’s an elite cover corner, but he isn’t a game changer or a difference-maker when it comes to creating huge plays or turnovers. The 24-year-old corner has just one interception in his career, and he has forced three fumbles. Those are the numbers that could negatively impact his next contract.

So, what could his value be to interested teams next offseason?

The Dallas Cowboys inked starting cover corner Trevon Diggs to a five-year, $97 million deal with $42 million guaranteed. Johnson hasn’t been comparable to Diggs in creating turnovers (Diggs has 18 interceptions and two defensive scores in 47 games) and the Cowboys corner was a first-team All-Pro while also getting named to two Pro Bowls, while the Bears corner has had no such accolades.

Johnson could be more in line for a contract comparable to that of Charvarious Ward, who signed a three-year, 40.5 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers in 2022.

Over the Cap currently has Johnson’s valuation at $10.2 million per year, but if he can stay healthy and create a few turnovers, he could command somewhere between $12-$14 million per year. About staying healthy…

Health Another Big Factor for Jaylon Johnson Heading Into Contract Year

Johnson has yet to play a full season since entering the league as a second-round pick for the Bears in 2020. He missed three games as a rookie with a shoulder injury, two games in 2021 (reserve/COVID-19), six games in 2022 (finger/ribs) and he has already been bitten by the injury bug in his 2023 campaign, missing the team’s Week 4 contest against the Denver Broncos with a hamstring issue. If he can’t get back on the field soon, he may not be able to command much.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles refused to commit to extending Johnson, although he said he’d like to keep the cover corner along with wideout Darnell Mooney around for several more years.

“We’re taking that kind of week by week,” Poles said on August 30. “I really don’t want to get into it. It kind of creates a distraction for the entire year. We like those guys. We’d love to have them here long-term, so we’ll just kind of stick with our plan.”

For his part, Johnson is aware that he needs more impact plays if he wants to see a heftier paycheck.

“The way I see it, I still got a lot to earn,” Johnson said on July 28, at the start of training camp. “I feel like I still have a lot to prove. It’s not like I’m just this person who has been first team All-Pro three years in a row and don’t have a contract. I’ve definitely got some more things to prove. I definitely gotta do my part better and I’m coming out here each and every day and work and whatever comes from that comes from that.”

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