The negotiations between the Bears and cornerback Jaylon Johnson didn't go as either side had hoped.
Johnson not only walked away without a deal, but he also requested a trade from the team. Ryan Poles granted him permission to do so in order to explore the market for a better offer; because apparently, the Bears' offers, thus far, to Johnson haven't been that exciting.
"The Bears' offer to extend him was considered pretty low, and in talking to teams, they suspect he will jockey with Kansas City's L'Jarius Sneed as the top corners in free agency. In recent years, that market has paid around $15 million per season," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote on Wednesday.
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Johnson has expressed his affinity for Chicago and the Bears several times. He also reiterated on Wednesday he's not asking to reset the cornerback market with his asking price.
If that's the case, then what's the holdup?
Poles admitted he was surprised when Johnson and his camp requested a trade from the Bears. The Bears' general manager was firm that the negotiations hadn't reached a true impasse. No final offers were made on either side.
"On Sunday we met with his side and had a really good meeting in LA," Poles said Wednesday. "I thought we made progress. I texted my group and I said 'We'll be able to get this deal done in a matter of days.' We come back from the trip and his team wants to explore a trade.
"That's the thing. We never got to that point (final offers). That's why we met in LA, in terms of 'let's close the gap' and figure out where to go next. When you negotiate, just like anything, you go back and forth a couple of steps. There were only a few steps. No one was final.
"It was a surprise because we were working to close the gap. There was no last and final from any side."
That adds an interesting wrinkle to the situation. Obviously, everybody and their mothers in Chicago want the Bears to bring back Johnson. He's one of the league's premier corners and he's just entering his prime.
But that can't happen if negotiations don't reach their full extent. Maybe, Johnson's camp believes the gap is too far away to close on. Fowler's report would indicate that as a likelihood.
And that wouldn't be the first time the Bears have tried to skate by on a low offer. In 2022, the Bears reportedly offered Roquan Smith a contract extension with backloaded money and proposed de-escalators unprecedented to any non-quarterback player. The whole thing was a mess.
We don't know the severity of the gap between the Bears and Johnson, but neither does Poles. Will Johnson come back to the table? He hasn't said as much, but the Bears are willing and ready to negotiate if and when Johnson is ready to do so.
"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'm going to follow Jaylon's lead on how he wants to go about doing that."