Jaylon Johnson

Bears GM Ryan Poles shares optimistic update on Jaylon Johnson contract negotiations

Poles shared some details on how he approached the negotiating table

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Bears GM Ryan Poles made it clear at the end of last season that he was going to make sure that star cornerback Jaylon Johnson would return to the team in 2024. Now that free agency negotiations are just two weeks away, Poles seems hopeful that Johnson may stick around beyond 2024, too.

“Conversations are going well at this time,” Poles said on Tuesday at the outset of the NFL Combine. “We feel like we've done a really good job coming to the table strong and showing the respect that he's due just in terms of his production through his career and really an emphasis on the turnovers he created this past year.

“Our expectation is that's going to continue to go as he's with the Bears.”

The Bears challenged Johnson to create more takeaways last season, which was the last of his rookie deal. Johnson responded with a career high four interceptions, in addition to one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. To further strengthen his case for a new, big contract, Johnson returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. He also earned the first All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors of his career.

In response, Poles said the team has made a strong offer to match his strong play.

“That means cash flows are strong, guarantees are strong, the term is strong for him.”

Johnson turns 25 years old this year, so one could argue his best years are ahead and that he’s worthy of big time money since there’s no reason to expect a dropoff in his play. Poles noted that gives Johnson another opportunity to cash in on a third contract, once his next deal expires.

“Hopefully that's with the Bears for a long period of time,” Poles said.

Johnson knows the ball’s in his court now. He told Keyshawn Johnson on the “All Facts No Brakes” podcast earlier this year that he doesn’t see any reason why he can’t be the highest paid corner in the league.

“That's what I'm aiming for,” Johnson said on the podcast. “That's what I'm shooting for. That's what I think can be done and should be done."

According to Spotrac, the highest paid corner in the league in terms of total cash is Denzel Ward, who signed a five-year, $100 million deal with the Browns. The highest annual average value belongs to Jaire Alexander, who earns $21 million a year. Ward’s $44.5 guaranteed at signing is also the top mark in the NFL. It remains to be seen whether the Bears will be comfortable topping any of those categories, or maybe several of those categories.

“It takes two to tango and you've gotta find a place that everyone feels comfortable with,” Poles said. “I feel really good about that situation.”

In the case the Bears and Johnson can’t come to an agreement on a long term deal, it doesn’t mean Johnson’s time in Chicago is over. The Bears have until 3 p.m. on Mar. 5 to use their franchise tag, and Poles acknowledged he could use it on Johnson this year.

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