Bears Insider

Jaylon Johnson-Bears contract saga has had many twists and turns with more to come

Deal? No deal? Trade? No trade? Jaylon Johnson is still a Bear, but what comes next?

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Tuesday started with Bears general manager Ryan Poles granting cornerback Jaylon Johnson and his representation permission to seek a trade before the 3 p.m. CT deadline.

In the end, the 24-year-old cornerback returned to the Bears to finish out the final nine games of his rookie contract before re-exploring contract extension negotiations with the Bears or potentially hitting the open market.

"I would say overall, seeking opportunity. That's the biggest thing for me," Johnson said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the trade request.

"I feel like really not coming to be on the same page," Johnson later said of the disconnect between him and Poles in contract talks. "Like I said, there's a difference between talking and trying to work things out versus trying to get things done. Up until this weekend, nothing was done. I figured I wanted some different opportunities to see what else was out there for me."

Poles has been adamant that he wants to keep and pay Johnson. He's a young, budding star cornerback who has done everything this regime has asked since they arrived.

So, what led to Tuesday's trade request?

Poles said he has an "open door" policy with all players looking for a contract extension. The Bears' general manager said Wednesday that he wants Johnson to be a Bear long-term and has made that clear. Poles said he "exchanged" some messages with Johnson's agents and felt like something got lost in translation.

So, with the Bears out in Los Angeles to face the Chargers last weekend, Poles met with Johnson's representation and felt good about the meeting.

"I thought we made progress. I texted my group. I’m like we’ll be able to get this deal done in a matter of days," Poles said Wednesday. "We come back from the trip, and his team wants to explore a trade situation. I’m fine with that, but we brought Jaylon in, we sat down, we talked about it. I granted him permission to do that."

However, Poles was clear Wednesday that it would have taken a lot for him to move Johnson. The goal is still to retain Johnson or get compensation that allows the Bears to have a good chance at replacing his talent.

"I don’t want to lose Jaylon Johnson," Poles said. "If I were to lose Jaylon Johnson, I would like to have a high percentage of hitting on another Jaylon Johnson, which to me, is a late first and into early second (round pick). Really simple there. That didn’t happen. We are still open to getting a contract done. I know we’re going to follow Jaylon’s lead on how he wants to go about doing that but we’re still open."

Johnson said he still wants to be a Bear and is open to restarting negotiations, but that won't happen now.

"I mean, not really too focused on it right now," Johnson said. "Just want to continue to stack the season. Continue to build my resume best I can, and I have some personal goals that I want to achieve and then from there, we'll figure that out when that time comes. That's not what I'm interested in right now. I'm trying to win."

Johnson said that his representatives were able to get a sense of how other teams value him during the open-trade window granted by the Bears. Johnson said that "in some cases" those valuations were different than how the Bears value him.

Back in the summer, Johnson said he didn't hold himself to the same value as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who was selected one pick after Johnson and recently signed a big extension.

However, Johnson admitted his valuation of himself has changed during what he believes is the best season of his career.

"I feel like for one I’ve played my best year that I’ve played at the Bears, for one," Johnson said. "Two, I feel like my impact is greater that it has been. And I mean that I feel like, arguably, I feel like I’m the best corner in the game right now. Just going off that and continuing to play at a high level, that’s not gonna change. I feel like for me, that only increases my value. And it so happens that you strike iron while it’s hot. That’s what it’s about."

Johnson did note he doesn't take the negotiations personally. He understands Poles has a job to do and that it's just business.

But while Johnson understands that the Bears might not give him his perceived value, he also won't just take anything that's put on the table. He wants fair. He wants respect and security.

"I’m not asking to change the market or break records," Johnson said. "I’m not asking for that. But I’m also not just going to take anything. ‘Like, OK, you deem me as this so I’m this.’ No, I don’t just going to take one man’s word and just put that viewpoint on myself. It’s a balance of being professional, being respectful to what his goals are and what he’s trying to do but also what my goals are and what I’m trying to do."

Poles said that while he and Johnson's group have exchanged some things, neither side has given a final offer. The Bears general manager said he doesn't know what the gap in the numbers are because neither side has been firm in their proposal. He believed they were working to "close the gap" when the trade ask was made.

Now, Johnson and the Bears have to get back to work on the field, let things cool down, and then perhaps get back to the negotiating table.

Johnson maintains he wants to be a Bear. He said he's excited to get to the market to start a bidding war but noted the Bears could franchise tag him and make that desire moot. He knows he has little control in the situation.

Despite his disappointment in not having the contract extension and not getting traded, Johnson plans to go back to work for the Bears. He prides himself on being a professional and believes keeping the main thing the main thing will lead him to what he has earned.

"My passion, my fire for the game isn’t going to change over a contract, lack of trade," Johnson said. "I mean, I’m still going to go out there and play high level football and that’s what I’ve been doing all year."

If he continues to do that, he'll get the contract he covets -- in Chicago or somewhere else.

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