Jaylon Johnson

Bears sign Jaylon Johnson to contract extension

Johnson gets his payday. The Bears get their star cornerback for several years.

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Jaylon Johnson will be locking down wide receivers in the Bears defense for a long time. On Thursday, Johnson and the Bears agreed to a new long term contract, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago.

Multiple reports say GM Ryan Poles and Johnson came together for a four-year, $76 million deal with over $54 million guaranteed. In terms of total money, that makes Johnson the seventh-highest cornerback in the NFL, according to OverTheCap. The $19 million average annual value for the deal is also seventh-most (not including L'Jarius Sneed who will make $19.8 million on the franchise tag). However, the guaranteed money puts Johnson above his peers. No cornerback in the league has more guaranteed money attached to his deal than Johnson, per OverTheCap.

Now Johnson is the second-highest paid player on the Bears in terms of total money, according to OverTheCap. Montez Sweat's $98-million deal leads the way. He's third in AAV, behind Sweat's $24.5 million and DJ Moore's $20.6 million. Once again, it's the guaranteed money that puts Johnson over the top. He leads the team in guaranteed cash.

The Bears and Johnson negotiated for a new deal last offseason, but never came together on an agreement. Johnson bet on himself and played out the last year of his rookie contract, and the bet paid off. The Bears challenged Johnson to improve his takeaway production in order to earn big bucks with the team. Johnson delivered and the Bears rewarded him.

In 2023, Johnson set a career high with four interceptions, one of which he returned for his first career touchdown. He added one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, too. Johnson managed to maintain his status as one of the top coverage corners in the league while making more plays on the ball, making his 2023 campaign all the more impressive. According to PFF, Johnson held QBs to an NFL-best 33.3 passer rating when targeted, among CBs with at least 200 pass coverage snaps. His 20.2 snaps per reception allowed was third-best and his 50% completion rate allowed was tied for fifth-best. In the rare even that Johnson did let his man catch the ball, he did a good job of limiting the damage. Johnson surrendered just 7.8 yards/catch, which was the fourth-lowest mark in the same group.

For his efforts, Johnson was named a Second-Team All-Pro and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2023.

Johnson is set to turn 25 this year, so there's no reason to expect a downturn in his play over the course of the contract. To the contrary, Johnson is probably just entering the prime of his career. By agreeing to a four-year deal, Johnson will have the opportunity to sign another significant contract before he turns 30, too.

The Bears defense took a huge step forward in 2023, and Johnson’s emergence as an elite corner was a big reason why. He made it clear as the regular season wound down that he wanted to help the team take the next step out of their rebuild.

“I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” Johnson said back in December. “It’s easy to say, oh, you want out of somewhere until you get it and then it’s like, ‘Ah, this may not be quite what I want.’ But I would say for me, I want to stay here and I want to not make that transition now. I feel like we’re building something special, too, especially with the guys in the locker room. I don’t think it’s something I can get anywhere else. I would like to stay and continue to build and make this better, and sh–, I want to win some games and get to the playoffs and make a push with the Chicago name, too.”

Poles used the franchise tag on Johnson earlier this week to give himself more time to negotiate a contract extension with Johnson, but it turns out they didn’t need it. The got the deal done a week before the new league year begins, when Johnson would have become a free agent.

The Bears selected Johnson in the second round of the 2020 draft. Since then he's started 53 games for the team.

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