Jaylon Johnson‘s request to be traded has produced multiple interested buyers. The Bills and 49ers are in discussions with the Bears about acquiring the contract-year cornerback, ESPN’s Ed Werder reports.
It is not known if these are the only two teams in on the ascending cover man, but Buffalo and San Francisco have each been previously linked to seeking CB assistance. Johnson would be poised to step in as a starter for either team, with the Bills in particular — seeing as they have lost Tre’Davious White at the position and Matt Milano and DaQuan Jones elsewhere on defense — being a team in need.
The Bills have not seen their 2022 first-round cornerback investment — Kaiir Elam — take off. The Florida alum could not wrest a starting job away from 2022 sixth-rounder Christian Benford, and White’s Achilles tear has not led to regular playing time this season. Benford and Dane Jackson stand as Buffalo’s starting outside corners, with Taron Johnson still manning the slot. Elam has come up in trades, with the Bills seemingly already admitting a misstep in the 2022 draft.
With Von Miller in his age-34 season and Stefon Diggs turning 30 next month, the Bills have a fair amount of urgency to capitalize on their strong roster this season. The White, Milano and Jones injuries have understandably hindered the three-time reigning AFC East champions’ defense. Today marks the Bills’ best opportunity to upgrade; the trade deadline looms in less than five hours.
Despite returning the corners from a No. 1-ranked defense, the 49ers have struggled in recent weeks. Both the Vikings and Bengals bested the 49ers’ secondary, with Minnesota doing so without Justin Jefferson, in upset wins. The 49ers have allowed more than 400 yards in back-to-back games. While Pro Football Focus ranks Charvarius Ward as a top-20 corner, Deommodore Lenoir sits outside the top 50. Some among the 49ers also liked Johnson in the 2020 draft, per ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner.
The 49ers also bring some urgency, having lost the past two NFC championship games. The Seahawks have since passed the 49ers in the NFC West race, with Kyle Shanahan‘s team slipping to 4-3. The 49ers also hold the most cap space in the NFL. While that will not matter much in a pursuit of Johnson, who is in the final year of a second-round rookie contract, San Francisco does have some ammo other teams do not if upgrades are truly sought today.
PFF’s No. 3 overall corner this season, Johnson has gone from angling for a Bears extension in the offseason to discussing a deal last week to being granted permission to find a trade partner. The Bears will undoubtedly seek a strong return to move the former second-round pick, as they would be in position to net a mid-round compensatory choice if Johnson leaves in free agency. The Bears have not been shy about dealing Ryan Pace-era defensive bastions, having moved Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack under second-year GM Ryan Poles.
Both Werder and CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson note the Cowboys are not believed to be in this late-forming derby. After Jerry Jones indicated a satisfaction with the team he has assembled, Anderson adds the price for Johnson is believed to be dissuading the Cowboys from making a genuine push. Dallas has been without Trevon Diggs for a few weeks now, with the All-Pro corner suffering an ACL tear in practice.