Jaylon Johnson

Bears tagging Jaylon Johnson latest expected move in long negotiations that need to end

It's time the Bears ended the Jaylon Johnson contract saga

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The Bears did the expected Tuesday, placing the franchise tag on cornerback Jaylon Johnson ahead of the 3 p.m. CT deadline, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones and The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain were first to report the news.

The franchise tag is an expected move in what has become an unnecessarily long saga for Johnson and the Bears.

Johnson arrived at training camp last summer looking for a deal that paid him below the market's top guys. Johnson pointed to his lack of takeaways and accolades as reason he didn't plan to ask for top dollar.

That calculus changed after a season where Johnson earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. He did everything the Bears' new regime asked him to do. He registered more takeaways, excelled in his role in head coach Matt Eberflus' defense, and became a leader for a young defense.

He bet on himself. He won.

It's time general manager Ryan Poles, and the Bears took the loss and paid their homegrown cornerback the money he has earned.

At the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, Poles said contract talks were going well and that the Bears had come "strong" with cash flow and guarantees with their offer.

It's clear the Bears and Johnson's camp still need time to find some common ground.

After notching just one interception in his first three seasons, Johnson pulled down four picks this past season and led all cornerbacks in yards allowed (195) and passer rating against (33.3)per Pro Football Focus.

Johnson, 24, is a young, ascending corner who is a critical cog in the near-elite defense the Bears are building. The Bears' Week 18 loss to the Green Bay Packers highlighted Johnson's importance to the Bears' defense. With Johnson on the sideline with an injury, Packers quarterback Jordan Love diced up a Bears' secondary relying on Tyrqiue Stevenson and Terell Smith.

After the game, defensive end DeMarcus Walker made an unprompted plea for Johnson to get the payday he earned.

"I tell you what, you better pay Jaylon Johnson," Walker said.

The Bears and Johnson now have until July 17 to work out a long-term contract. If they can't reach an agreement by that date, Johnson will have to play the 2024 season on the one-year, $19.8 million tender.

There were no shockwaves with the Bears' decision to tag Johnson on Tuesday. It's the latest in a long saga that should have ended long ago.

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