Bears Appear Likely to Part Ways With $6.5 Million Starter Over Contract

Jaylon Johnson, Matt Eberflus, Bears

Getty Cornerback Jaylon Johnson (left) of the Chicago Bears talks with head coach Matt Eberflus during minicamp in June 2023.

The Chicago Bears still lead the NFL in cap space but that hasn’t stopped the team from being discerning with where it spends its money.

Central to that discussion is cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who is heading into the fourth and final season on his rookie contract and has yet to sign an extension in Chicago. Some drama has unfolded in that regard since organized team activities (OTAs) began last month. Johnson skipped some of those workouts in May, a move that was flanked by both preceding and subsequent comments from general manager Ryan Poles and Johnson, respectively, about the cornerback’s status with the Bears long-term.

Courtney Cronin of ESPN reported on Thursday, June 15, that a new deal for Johnson in Chicago remains uncertain given his performance across the last three years and Poles’ tendencies toward pre-regime change players since joining the franchise last offseason.

Johnson said his absence from the first two weeks of OTAs in May stemmed from wanting to spend time with his 3-year-old daughter and fundraise for his nonprofit foundation, not because the 24-year-old does not have a new contract. Bears general manager Ryan Poles has yet to re-sign any player drafted by Chicago before his arrival in 2022, but he did say in April that Johnson, a second-round pick in 2020, is a player he hopes he’ll get “to keep here for a while.”

When he returned for the final week of OTAs, Johnson also expressed his desire to stay with the Bears long-term and said he is planning to find a new agent. Johnson’s one interception over three seasons may affect how much the Bears, with an estimated $32.5 million in cap space, are willing to spend.

Actions of Jaylon Johnson, Bears Indicate Contract Extension for CB Unlikely Ahead of 2023 Season

Alan Williams Jaylon Johnson OTAs

GettyCornerback Jaylon Johnson of the Chicago Bears in action during a game against the San Francisco 49ers in September 2022.

Despite the words on both sides of the contract standoff, the actions speak louder.

Johnson would have needed to show up for only five days of workouts in the month of May and another on June 1 to display a level of commitment to the franchise. In the meantime, Poles could have made a meaningful and good-faith contract offer to Johnson, even if said offer would have come in under Johnson’s asking price, and made that news public. That neither happened/has happened means more than whatever lines Johnson and Poles are currently selling to the media.

The cornerback and franchise presumably have yet to even sit down across from one another at the negotiating table, based on Cronin’s report that Johnson is seeking a new agent. If no agreement is reached, Johnson will play out the last year of his $6.5 million rookie deal in 2023. Spotrac projects his market value at $7.7 million annually over a three-year deal should Johnson sign a new contract now, though that projection could rise or fall based on the cornerback’s performance this season.

Jaylon Johnson Has Started Every Game He Has Played for Bears Across Last 3 Years

OTA No-Shows Bears2

GettyCornerback Jaylon Johnson of the Chicago Bears is eligible for a contract extension heading into the final year of his rookie deal in 2023.

Johnson’s production has been short of outstanding and represents a failure to live up to his draft position after Chicago selected him No. 50 overall in the second round in 2020.

The cornerback has played in and started 39 of a possible 50 regular season games over his three-year NFL career. He has just one interception, as Cronin noted, and has registered 125 tackles, including three tackles for loss, 31 pass breakups and two forced fumbles during his professional tenure.

Johnson surrendered a collective completion percentage of 58.8% and a collective quarterback rating of 94.6 to opposing QBs across 11 starts in 2022, per Pro Football Reference. He has also allowed 8.9 yards per target in two of his three seasons and a total of 11 receiving touchdowns in pass coverage since entering the league.

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