Jaylon Johnson’s tune on free agency shifts in his latest press conference
Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson emerged as one of the NFL’s premier pass defenders in 2023. He also sought a contract extension and then a trade all during the 2023 season. Now the offseason has arrived and Johnson will officially be a free agent at the start of the league’s calendar year in March.
Johnson has made it very clear that he is all in on what the Bears are building. He wants to stay in Chicago, he wants to be a Bear. He reiterated this in his latest press conference but also made an important distinction this time.
When asked about his pending free agency, Johnson responded with this:
“Heart’s definitely in Chicago, mind’s definitely on the money,” Johnson said. “So, I mean, we’ll figure out if we can make them both come together and get something done. I’m looking forward to see what’s to come.”
Johnson wants to stay with the Bears, but if the money isn’t right, he will walk. Which is smart and the best thing for his career. Johnson deserves to be paid like one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, which he is.
Ryan Poles ensures Johnson is staying in Chicago
Last month Ryan Poles responded directly to a question about Johnson’s free agency. Amid the growing concern among Bears fans with the lack of any news about a contract extension. Poles responded by saying that Jaylon Johnson isn’t going anywhere.
“Jaylon’s not going to go anywhere and we’ll work through it to get something done. . . . “We have really good communication,” Poles said, via NBCSportsChicago.com. “The big thing was just kind of take a break here after the season and then we’ll start talks again. I feel really good about that situation.”
If the Bears and Johnson do not agree to contract terms in the next few weeks, the franchise tag might come into play.
What exactly is a franchise tag?
The franchise tag allows NFL teams to select one player who is set to be an unrestricted free agent and guarantees another year under contract if certain conditions are met. Each team receives one franchise tag per year and can be applied as either exclusive or non-exclusive.
Below is an excerpt form NBC Sports explaining the two types of franchise tags. These are both potential contracts Ryan Poles could offer Johnson if a long term deal isn’t done.
Exclusive: Teams must offer the selected player a one-year contract no less than either the average of the top-five salaries at that player’s position based on April of the current year or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.
Non-exclusive: Teams must offer the selected player a one-year contract no less than the average of the top-five cap hits of that player’s positions or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.
If Ryan Poles opts to uses the franchise tag on Jaylon Johnson, he will become a free agent again in 2025. Then Poles could once again franchise tag Johnson or sign him to a multi-year deal.
The ideal solution for Jaylon Johnson
The ideal outcome is Ryan Poles gives Johnson a four or five year extension. It is hard to come by lockdown corners in the modern NFL. Letting Johnson walk to another team would be a devastating blow to the Bears defense.
Jaylon Johnson wants to play in Chicago and he wants to be paid fairly for his skillset. Johnson more than earned the right to be paid what his peers are making. A deal reaching a total at or above $95 million for 4 or more years is reasonable for a player of his ability.
Ryan Poles claims to have great communication with Jaylon Johnson, as free agency approaches it will be known if Poles is telling the truth.
Johnson is an elite NFL cornerback, the Bears need to do what it takes to retain him.
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