Bears’ Jaylon Johnson Seeking To Become Highest-Paid CB

No updates to the cornerback AAV hierarchy came this past offseason. Jaire Alexander‘s $21MM-per-year Packers contract, agreed to in 2022, remains atop the position. Jaylon Johnson wants to change that.

Although Johnson’s trajectory reminds more of Josh Norman‘s in Carolina, with a monster contract year changing the equation, the Bears corner will reenter extension negotiations with a lofty expectation. The four-year Chicago starter believes he deserves to become the NFL’s highest-paid corner.

Going into the negotiation, I don’t think it’s too much really to talk about. I feel like there’s no reason I can’t be the highest-paid corner in the league,” Johnson said during an interview with Fox Sports’ Keyshawn Johnson (via NBC Sports Chicago’s Josh Schrock). “I feel like that’s what I’m aiming for; that’s what I’m shooting for; that’s what I think can be done and should be done.

The Bears and Johnson were unable to come to terms on an extension before the trade deadline, leading to GM Ryan Poles making the former second-round pick available in trades. Chicago aimed for a first- or second-round pick for the late-blooming defender; that price will probably come up when the sides return to the negotiating table. Still, Johnson’s second-contract aspiration will probably lead to the franchise tag being unholstered.

I feel like I’ve had a good enough resume from my rookie year until now,” Johnson said. “I feel like really this was just the icing on the cake. I feel like there’s not anything anybody can say. I took the ball away; I got All-Pro; I got Pro Bowl. I mean, what else is there for me to get? I feel like I’m very deserving of the highest paid at the position.

“I’m going to go in and the ball is really in my court. I’m just going to wait for them and come to terms on it and hopefully it’s what I feel I’m deserving of.”

A tag, which would cost Chicago around $18MM, makes more sense than a market-topping extension. While Johnson did earn Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors this season, his resume coming into the seminal contract year does not match up with his 2023 work. Pro Football Focus graded Johnson first overall among corners, and Pro-Football-Reference’s coverage metrics backed that up. After allowing passer ratings (as the closest defender) north of 94 from 2020-22, Johnson checked in with a 50.9 number this season — a four-INT slate. The sudden performance uptick would point to a “prove it” year, should the 24-year-old cover man stick to his guns.

The Bears becoming the first team to use a franchise tag on a corner since the 2017 Rams (Trumaine Johnson) would give them until mid-July to work out an extension. The Panthers tagged Norman in 2016, eventually rescinding the tag and leading him to a record-setting deal with Washington. Although Jaylon Johnson said at multiple points last year he wants to stay in Chicago, he likely will not have a choice. The Bears having the tag as leverage would stand to ensure, barring a tag-and-trade scenario, Johnson would play the 2024 season in the Windy City.

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