Bears Insider

Jaylon Johnson sends clear message to Bears with two-pick game, noteworthy celebration

With a pick-six and a noteworthy celebration, cornerback Jaylon Johnson sent a clear message to the Bears and the rest of the NFL as he prepares to enter free agency

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CHICAGO -- Jaylon Johnson has never wavered in his desire to stay in Chicago long term. But the star cornerback also rightfully will prioritize the generational wealth that is sure to come with his next deserved payday.

Johnson and the Bears have made little progress on contract extension negotiations. In February, Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago that ball production would be a big focus in 2023. Johnson noted that he can't make plays if quarterbacks don't throw the ball his way, but he needs to capitalize when he gets his chances.

Do that, and the Bears' new regime should reward him with a contract that equals his talent.

Johnson entered Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders with zero takeaways on the season. But he made a statement with two interceptions, including a pick-six of rookie Aidan O'Connell to help lead the Bears to a 30-12 win.

After the pick-six, Johnson sprinted to the camera, removed his helmet, and started motioning as if he were throwing money in the air. The fourth-year cornerback sealed the win with a pick on the next possession.

Message sent.

"You damn right," Johnson said when asked if he was sending a message with his celebration. "100 percent.

"I've been wanting to get to the table. At the end of the day, I know who I am, and I know I can play this game at a high level. I feel like I deserve to be paid like that."

Johnson quickly noted it was a message to any team in the NFL, not just the Bears.

"I'm taking that attitude to any team. Any and everybody in the NFL. It's with the Bears, then I'll do that. If it's with anybody else, for sure.

"I'm one of those guys that can be paid at a high level."

The Bears drafted cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith in this past draft, giving them young depth to replace Johnson should they either trade him before the deadline or let him walk in free agency.

Letting top-level talent walk is not good business in the NFL, especially at premium positions.

Coming into Sunday, Johnson had allowed just eight catches on 17 targets for 95 total yards. Add in Sunday's two interceptions, and the fact that he was part of a defensive effort that held Davante Adams to 57 yards, and the message is only getting louder.

Winning organizations retain and reward their best players. This new Bears regime let David Montgomery walk last offseason. That was an understandable decision, given the nature of the running back position. They also traded linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Baltimore Ravens quickly rewarded with a rich extension.

This new Bears regime did sign tight end Cole Kmet to a four-year extension. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus view Kmet as a pillar of what they are trying to build -- a player who has bought into the H.I.T.S principle and has become part of the fabric of the locker room's soul.

If they haven't viewed Johnson in the same light, perhaps Sunday's performance will change their mind.

At the very least, it surely helped deliver his message.

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