Bears’ Jaylon Johnson seeks trade, per multiple reports

NFL trade deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson comes off the field after his first of two interceptions, a pick six, during their game against the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Bears have granted cornerback Jaylon Johnson permission to seek a trade, per multiple reports.

The Bears and Johnson have spent the past week negotiating a contract extension, per reports from both the NFL Network and ESPN. But with the two sides apparently not on the same page, the Bears have given Johnson the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Johnson, who is 24, is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract. He’s due for a new contract in 2024 and a massive pay raise. Johnson has made about $5.7 million dollars over the course of his rookie deal. A top cornerback these days will cost a team more than $15 million per season.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles has thus far been selective when it comes to handing out big contract extensions. Tight end Cole Kmet is the only homegrown talent drafted by the previous GM who has received a high-paying extension from Poles. Kmet signed a four-year, $50 million deal in late July.

Similar to what happened with linebacker Roquan Smith a year ago, the Bears now could be looking to deal another talented, young defender as the 3 p.m. Tuesday trade deadline approaches. Last year, Poles was quite active at the trade deadline. He shipped out Smith and defensive end Robert Quinn, while also acquiring receiver Chase Claypool.

A potential Johnson deal would probably look somewhat similar to a Smith trade. At the deadline last year, the Bears sent Smith to Baltimore in exchange for second- and fifth-round draft picks. The Ravens signed Smith to a five-year, $100 million extension in January. A top tier cornerback could be worth a similar return.

Johnson, for his part, simply wants to play for a team that will be willing to pay him top dollar.

“Security. That’s what all this is [about],” Johnson said last week at Halas Hall. “That’s what we play the game for, security. At the end of the day, a lot of it goes back to respect as well. It’s not just about taking anything. You can throw some numbers at somebody and just hope they take anything, but that’s not what I’m looking to do. I’m looking for respect and security.”

Speaking last week, Johnson said he was open to any of the three options on the table: staying with the Bears long term, a trade to a new team or playing out the season on the last year of his contract.

Johnson is an elite coverage cornerback, but the turnover numbers over his career haven’t been high. The highest-paid cornerbacks tend to make plays on the ball. In 45 career games since the Bears selected him with a 2020 second-round draft pick, Johnson has three interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He had a two-interception game just a week ago against the Raiders.

If Poles were to deal Johnson, the Bears would be losing one of their best defenders. Poles wants to build his team through the draft, and through being selective with his spending money. Trading Johnson would signal that Poles’ rebuild is far from over.

It’s also possible no deal is reached before the 3 p.m. deadline. In that case, Johnson would have to play out the season. The two sides could resume contract negotiations at any point. The Bears also have the option to franchise tag one player ahead of free agency next spring.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.