Jaylon Johnson

Bears Notes: J. Johnson, Wright, Warren

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and he wants an extension. It was reported back in June that Johnson would be hiring a new agent to aid in that pursuit, and he recently retained the services of Chris Ellison, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Biggs does not indicate whether talks have taken place (the earlier report suggested that Johnson was not necessarily pushing for a new deal to be completed before training camp). GM Ryan Poles has expressed a desire to keep Johnson in the fold, but Poles has used second-round picks on corners (Kyler Gordon and Tyrique Stevenson) in back-to-back years, and the team also selected Terell Smith in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

As such, Poles may elect to make Johnson — who has been a regular starter but far from a world-beater in his first three professional seasons — prove himself in his platform year before committing to him on a long-term basis.

Now for more notes from the Windy City:

  • Darnell Wright, the Bears’ first-round choice in the 2023 draft, is penciled in as the club’s starting right tackle. Still, the team wanted him to drop weight, and per Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required), Wright has done just that. By conditioning like a wide receiver and hiring a personal chef, the Tennessee blocker shaved 16 pounds off his frame, and Poles noted that Wright aced the OL conditioning test. Wright’s presence could help push former Raiders first-rounder Alex Leatherwood off the roster.
  • The Bears recorded just 20 sacks in 2022, the lowest total in the league. While Chicago added some reinformcents in the form of DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green in free agency, its pass rush contingent remains uninspiring. We heard last month that Poles may want to add another edge defender, and he recently confirmed that desire (Twitter link via Jahns). However, it sounds as if Poles may be having difficulty enticing free agents to the club. “It takes two to make sure it works out,” he said. Accomplished players like Yannick Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney, and Robert Quinn — whom the Bears traded to the Eagles in advance of last year’s deadline — remain unsigned.
  • We heard back in January that Kevin Warren, the former Big Ten commissioner whom the Bears hired as their new president and CEO role in the wake of Ted Phillips‘ retirement, would focus on the business side of the operation. However, Dan Pompei of The Athletic (subscription required) says, “[i]t would be naive to think [Warren] won’t have much to do with the football team that will play in the stadium he is trying to build.” In an expansive piece that will be of particular interest to Bears fans, Pompei notes that Warren will almost certainly hire the team’s next GM and head coach whenever those hires become necessary, and that he will have input into how Poles and current head coach Matt Eberflus operate. Indeed, Warren plans to watch game tape and will evaluate the players’ attention to detail, energy level, and passion for the game.

CB Jaylon Johnson Targeting Bears Extension

Although the Bears are coming off a three-win season and changed regimes in 2022, members of their 2020 draft class may be on the extension radar. Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney figure to warrant conversations about second Chicago contracts. Jaylon Johnson would like to join that conversation as well.

A starting cornerback throughout his Bears tenure, the former second-round pick said he is “100%” targeting a deal that will allow him to stay in the Windy City. Johnson, Kmet and Mooney each became eligible to sign an extension in January. Since none of the trio entered the NFL as first-rounders, with the Bears not having a 2020 first due to the Khalil Mack trade, the fifth-year option was not in Chicago’s equation this offseason.

Johnson, 24, said he plans to hire an agent to handle these talks soon, per the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, who adds the Utah product is not pushing for a new deal before training camp. (Mooney hired a new agent this offseason as well.) The Bears punted on a Roquan Smith extension last year, but the team’s Ryan Poles-led front office would not need to consider a top-market contract for any of its newly extension-eligible cogs.

Being charged with five touchdown passes allowed in each of his first two seasons, Johnson cut that number down to one last year. Then again, the Bears did not play with many leads during a 3-14 season, and Johnson was targeted just 51 times — down from 70-plus during the 2020 and ’21 seasons. Pro Football Focus viewed Johnson as a mid-pack cornerback last year, slotting him just outside the top 65 at the position. Pro-Football-Reference’s coverage metrics measured Johnson similarly, though those did credit the 6-foot defender with the lowest passer rating-against figure of his career (94.6).

The Bears do not have much in the way of long-term commitments on their books. They picked up the Panthers’ D.J. Moore contract via trade and signed Tremaine Edmunds and Nate Davis to big-ticket free agency deals. As far as homegrown players, Eddie Jackson represents the only notable defender extension on Chicago’s payroll. Cody Whitehair sits as the team’s lone in-house extension of note on offense. The Bears lead the NFL in cap space presently, with more than $32MM, and are projected to hold more than $96MM in 2024.

At corner, however, Chicago has used second-round picks on Kyler Gordon and Tyrique Stevenson, potentially opening the door to the team being patient regarding a Johnson payment. But the clock is ticking. While players like Justin Fields and Teven Jenkins figure to be on the Bears’ extension radar down the road, the team will need to decide on its 2020 draftees’ futures soon.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/23/22

Today’s minor moves heading into the NFL’s largest slate of Saturday games of the season:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

  • Promoted from practice squad: G Kyle Hinton

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/20/21

A long list of players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. We listed the players who landed on the list today, as well as those who were activated off the list:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DE John Franklin-Myers, DB Sharrod Neasman

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Bears Finalize Draft Class Deals

The Bears completed a quick effort to have their 2020 draft class signed by the time their rookies were to report to training camp. All seven of Chicago’s draftees are now signed, with the group either inking deals Tuesday or seeing the team reveal an agreement is in place.

Second-round tight end Cole Kmet and Round 2 cornerback Jaylon Johnson highlight the group, which also included linebacker Trevis Gipson, cornerback Kindle Vildor, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tackles Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons. Kmet, Johnson and Simmons signed their deals Tuesday.

This marked the second of two Bears drafts lacking a first-round pick because of 2018’s Khalil Mack trade. Chicago, however, gained a second-rounder in that deal and selected Kmet. The Bears took Hambright with a pick obtained in the deal with the Raiders as well.

The first tight end selected this year, Kmet will be expected to step in as Chicago’s starter fairly soon. The team has experienced issues filling this job in recent years. Dion Sims, 2017 second-rounder Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton failed to become the franchise’s long-sought-after answer here. The Bears did sign Jimmy Graham, but the soon-to-be 34-year-old tight end struggled for much of his Packers tenure.

A Utah product, Johnson can be expected to compete for the Bears’ starting cornerback job opposite Kyle Fuller. Chicago released Prince Amukamara this offseason. The Bears also traded up for Mooney in Round 5, doing so just before signing Ted Ginn Jr. to serve as a stopgap option. Chicago also cut Taylor Gabriel this offseason.

Here is the Bears’ draft class:

2-43: Cole Kmet, TE (Notre Dame)
2-50: Jaylon Johnson, CB (Utah)
5-155: Trevis Gipson, LB (Tulsa)
5-163: Kindle Vildor, CB (Georgia Southern)
5-173: Darnell Mooney, WR (Tulane)
7-226: Arlington Hambright, T (Colorado)
7-227: Lachavious Simmons, T (Tennessee State)

NFL Draft Rumors: Giants, Herbert, Tua

Will the Giants actually consider quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 4 overall pick, even though they already have Daniel Jones under center? The answer is no, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, though GM Dave Gettleman has been eyeing him for quite some time. Had Herbert entered last year, he would have been Gettleman’s top choice, Pauline hears.

Here’s a look at the latest draft rumblings from around the NFL:

  • In private conversations, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has indicated that Herbert is not actually in consideration for the No. 5 pick, a source close to Ross tells Pauline. That same source says the pick will either be used on Tua Tagovailoa or a position player, with Jordan Love being selected sometime later. If it’s a non-QB at No. 5, Pauline hears that tackle Andrew Thomas is the most likely choice.
  • Multiple NFL execs tell ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler that the Vikings are looking to move back. The Vikings own Nos. 22 and 25, but they could fill their needs at cornerback and wide receiver later on. In the second round, they should be able to land one of this year’s second-tier corners such as Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, or Alabama’s Trevon Diggs – the brother of former Vikes receiver Stefon Diggs.
  • Based on what we’ve heard, Washington’s Jacob Eason profiles as a Day 2 pick for QB-needy teams like the Patriots. He could also be a fit for teams looking to groom their next signal caller. One AFC exec pondered the possibility of Eason going to the Buccaneers, where the pure passer serve as the heir to Tom Brady. The Bucs own the No. 45 overall pick in the second round and Eason could be there for them, provided that teams like the Colts (No. 34) don’t pounce first.

Latest On Utah CB Jaylon Johnson

After examining Jaylon Johnson‘s shoulder, Dr. Peter Millett wrote a letter to NFL teams to let them know the Utah cornerback is ahead of schedule on his shoulder recovery (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). That piece of good news should keep Johnson squarely in the first- conversation in next week’s draft.

The expectation is that Johnson will make a full recovery “without any restrictions or limitations” and be ready for full participation in early August. That injury, more or less, is the only thing that could keep Johnson out of the top 32. The Utah product has been on the national radar since his sophomore season, when he notched four interceptions – including a pick-six. Last year, he added two more picks to his stockpile as quarterbacks avoided him whenever possible.

At the pro level, Johnson projects as a solid outside corner with the ability to also play in the slot. Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah figures to be the first corner off the board on Thursday, but Johnson won’t be left waiting for long. The Niners could entertain Johnson at No. 13; ditto for the Falcons (No. 16), Cowboys (No. 17) and Raiders (No. 19). NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah pegged the Vikings to take Johnson at No. 22 overall – if that’s not Johnson’s floor, it’s probably close to it. Still, like every other prospect, Johnson will be watching anxiously as the picks come in.

On his latest big board, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller slotted Johnson as his No. 4 corner in the draft, behind Okudah, Florida’s C.J. Henderson, and TCU’s Jeff Gladney.