Once the 2023 trade deadline came and went without Jaylon Johnson being dealt, it appeared likely the Bears would use the franchise tag on the Pro Bowl corner. Signs continue to point in that direction.
Mike Jurecki of Arizona Football Daily reports the Bears are set to apply the tag to Johnson this offseason. Doing so will cost roughly $18.4MM on the one-year tender, and provide a larger window for negotiations on a long-term deal. The expectation for much of the offseason has been that a tag is the likeliest outcome in this situation.
Johnson enjoyed a career-year in 2023, posting four interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He set new personal bests in coverage, allowing a completion percentage of 55.2% and a passer rating of 50.9. That made him a hot commodity on the trade front, with the Bears understandably setting a high asking price. In the end, Chicago elected to retain the second-team All-Pro and set up negotiations on a second contract over the course of the offseason.
In the wake of his impressive campaign, Johnson has publicly stated his goal of becoming the league’s highest-paid corner. The 24-year-old would need to find a deal worth more than $21MM per year to accomplish that, though he is in line for a substantial raise even if he does end up playing on the tag in 2024. If he has his way, Johnson will secure not only a multi-year pact, but manage to do remain in Chicago in the process.
“Heart’s definitely in Chicago, mind’s definitely on the money,” the former second-rounder told NFL.com at this week’s Pro Bowl. “So, I mean, we’ll figure out if we can make them both come together and get something done. I’m looking forward to see what’s to come.”
The Bears are set to have more cap space this offseason than most other teams, so absorbing the cap hit of a Johnson tag should not be challenging. Given the contrast of his first three seasons compared to 2023, though, it would be understandable if the Bears were hesitant to go beyond their price point on a long-term agreement. As things stand, therefore, a tag remains the expected move on Chicago’s part, and a decision on that front will need to be made no later than March 5.