Selective Focus Photography of Man Playing American Football

Jaylon Johnson reaches long-term deal with Bears after receiving franchise tag: source

By Kevin Fishbain, Larry Holder and Adam Jahns

The Chicago Bears didn’t have to hold on to the franchise title on cornerback Jaylon Johnson for very long. The Bears and Johnson have agreed to a four-year contract worth $76 million, a league source confirmed to Athleticism.

Johnson, who was awarded the franchise tag on Tuesday, will receive $54.4 million guaranteed as part of the deal, or 71.6 percent of the total contract, ranking him No. 1 among corners.

The $19 million average salary puts Johnson slightly outside the top five highest-paid cornerbacks on that scale, but Johnson will get a fully guaranteed $43.8 million upon signing (second-most for corners) and $28 million dollars in cash in the first year, which will rank second on the corner.

A Pro Bowl corner in 2023, Johnson had a career year with four interceptions, including a pick six, to go along with 10 passes defensed. In terms of advanced statistics, it was also by far his best season, as he allowed just 4.8 yards per target and a passer rating of 50.9, according to Pro Football Reference.

“I’m so proud of Jaylon the way he’s improved in the way he’s taken on the challenge of being a ball player and he’s certainly done that,” coach Matt Eberflus said during the NFL Scouting Combine. “He is a great leader not only in our defensive back room, but our entire defensive room. He’s really starting to become a really good leader on our football team. So I’m excited for him

Johnson turns 25 in April and this contract will potentially allow him to return to the open market before he turns 29.

A second-round pick by former Bears general manager Ryan Pace in 2020, Johnson was a top rookie corner with 15 passes defended. He has been the team’s No. 1 corner for the past three seasons.

The Bears keep their top corner in the fold without making him the highest-paid corner by some measures, while Johnson is able to capitalize on his best season. Current general manager Ryan Poles is also able to reward one of his own, which always makes an impact in the locker room, especially at Johnson’s position, which features second- and third-year pros Tyrique Stevenson, respectively. and Kyler Gordon.

go further


NFL Franchise Winners and Losers: Baker Mayfield, Good News for RBs and More

How Johnson Compares

There is no doubt that the Bears cornerback has improved each season. An illustration can be seen in his opposing passer ratings, via Stathead, in each of the last four seasons:

  • 2020: 107.5
  • 2021: 101.9
  • 2022: 94.6
  • 2023: 50.9

Here’s how Johnson ranked last season at the top of opposing passer rating for cornerbacks. Also listed are interceptions and opposing completion percentage:

Franchise tags for Johnson and L’Jarius Sneed from the Kansas City Chiefs dampen the cornerback crop for free agency. But teams usually don’t let top cornerbacks walk, so it’s a no-brainer for the Bears to score Johnson. And now the Bears have Johnson for the long term with a new deal in place. — Larry Holder, Senior NFL Writer

Continued investment in defense

Johnson is the second holdover from the Pace era to get a contract extension from the Bears. Tight end Cole Kmet finished first last year. But by extending Johnson, the Poles also continued their significant investment in the Bears’ defense, led by Eberflus. The Bears’ three biggest contracts belong to defensive players. The Bears acquired defensive end Montez Sweat from the Washington Commanders last season, then signed him to a four-year, $98 million contract. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds signed a four-year, $72 million contract in free agency last year. — Adam Jahns, Bears senior writer

How did we get there ?

When the Bears and Johnson failed to agree on a new deal last fall, he requested a trade and seemed intrigued by the possibility of free agency. The Poles set a high price and Johnson remained a bear while continuing to play at a high level to the point that in January the general manager said Johnson wasn’t going anywhere.

Both sides got on the same page and reached a deal before letting it hang around in OTAs like others on the tag usually do. It turned into a good situation for the player and the team. — Kevin Fishbain, Bears editor

Required reading

(Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)