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It's time for the Bears to keep good players and it starts with Jaylon Johnson

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
October 23, 2023

Jaylon Johnson had one additional stop after he reached the end zone in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 30-12 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Bears’ veteran cornerback finished his pick-six off Raiders quarterback Brian Hoyer, took off his helmet and found the FOX broadcasting camera. With his defensive teammates surrounding him, the back of Johnson’s left hand faced crowd while his right hand made it rain money.

“Damn right. 100%,” Johnson said after the game when asked if he was sending a message with that celebration.

On the following drive after the pick-six, Johnson intercepted rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell to give the Bears three interceptions on the day. Tremaine Edmunds also intercepted Hoyer in the Bears first home victory in 392 days.

Johnson is currently playing through the final year of his rookie contract, and the former second-round draft pick believes he deserves to be paid.

With the NFL trade deadline approaching (Oct. 31), general manager Ryan Poles needs to keep Johnson a part of this Bears team instead of trading him off to any potential suitors that may be interested.

Last season, Poles traded Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith within a five-day span to accumulate future draft capital for the veteran defensive players. Depleting the overall talent on the team ended up working in the long run for the Bears since Chicago secured the No. 1 overall pick and traded that to acquire DJ Moore and additional draft picks.

The Bears may have just won their second game since Smith was traded on Oct 31., 2022, but the organization needs to look into keeping talented players instead of trading them for “potentially” talented ones.

Johnson is a good football player, and it shouldn’t be automatically assumed Poles will find a quality replacement that has been as dependable as Johnson has since he was drafted in 2020 out of Utah.

The main criticism, and it’s a valid one, is that Johnson hasn’t created enough turnovers in his career. After Sunday’s Week 7 victory against the Raiders, Johnson has just three interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 44 games played.

His other interception occurred 28 games ago in the Week 2 win over the Bengals in 2021. Johnson forced one fumble in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this season. Then in Week 1 against the 49ers in 2022, and in Week 12 of the 2021 season on the road against Detroit. Outside of the Buccaneers game, the Bears won each time Johnson intercepted a pass or forced a fumble.

Jaylon Johnson’s case for an extension

Here is how Johnson stacks up among other cornerbacks with a minimum of 50 snaps since 2020, according to Pro Football Focus

  • 12 TDs allowed (T-23rd among CBs)
  • 34 forced incompletions (T-14th)
  • 119 receptions allowed (T-45th) for 1,666 yards (25th most)
  • 213 targets (31st)

Johnson’s 22.2 passer rating allowed this seasons also ranks No. 1 among all cornerbacks, according to PFF. The veteran corner is ready to have those discussions about a potential contract extension.

“I’ve been wanting to get to the table,” Johnson said after the Raiders game. “At the end of the day, I know who I am. I know I can play this game at a high level. I feel like I deserve to be paid like that. I’m taking that attitude for any team, for any and everybody in the NFL. I mean if it’s with the Bears, then I’ll do that. If it’s with anybody else, for sure I gotta. I feel like I’m one of those guys that can be paid at a high level.”

Of course, the Bears will have to look at his entire work portfolio to gauge whether he is worth a new contract. Against the Raiders, Johnson was penalized twice. Once for illegal contact and then a 46-yard pass interference play led to a field goal. But those were his only two penalties of the season so far, and each season that number has gone down.

The money will be an interesting conversation for Johnson. For comparison, Jaire Alexander agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract extension with the Packers in May 2022. On top of being an elite cover corner, Alexander also has 10 interceptions since 2018.

Johnson clearly doesn’t have that many picks, but he does get asked to shadow opposing No. 1 wide receivers, like Alexander, and always wants that top-tier matchup.

To make things more interesting, the Bears invested in the cornerback position in this past draft, moving up to select Tyrique Stevenson with the No. 56 overall pick and then Terell Smith with the 165th pick in the fifth round.

Although both of the rookies have had some positive moments throughout this season, it doesn’t hurt to have quality depth at a premium position, and that’s what Smith could provide should the Bears choose to keep Johnson.

And for most of Johnson’s Bears career, he hasn’t played with a defensive front that has made his job easier. Johnson isn’t someone, though, who would blame the lack of pass rush on why his turnover numbers aren’t greater.

Maybe Poles will look to address the team’s defensive front in the next offseason, which would help the entire secondary.

So instead of creating another hole, the Bears should keep Johnson and make him a key piece on the defense for seasons to come.

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