Jaylon Johnson Hopes He and the Bears Can Agree on an Extension Before the 2023 Season

Jaylon Johnson bears cb

The Chicago Bears have more than $90 million in space under the 2023 NFL salary cap and three notable players whom I’d consider being most worthy of an extension.

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney, tight end Cole Kmet, and cornerback Jaylon Johnson are rising fourth-year players who became eligible to sign an extension with the Bears beginning this offseason. And one of those players, Johnson, told multiple news sources that he and the Bears have already begun.

This is where the fun begins:

In addition to telling the CHGO gang that extension conversations have begun and that he was hopeful an extension could be worked out before the start of the 2023 season, Johnson said to NBC Sports Chicago that his goal has always been to get an extension from the Bears. Moreover, Johnson goes on to predict that talks “will heat up in due time.” And for Johnson, that might mean after the first few waves of free agency come and go. All of this makes me think there are real reasons for optimism that Johnson and the Bears can hammer out a deal.

Now, to be clear, I’m cognizant that the Bears haven’t done well in the extension market in recent years. They failed to extend the likes of Allen Robinson, Bilal Nichols, James Daniels, and Roquan Smith. But maybe things will be different this time around. Having nearly $100 million in available space under the cap could help matters. And from Johnson’s side of the table, that he predicts things possibly accelerating after the first waves of free agency makes sense. Frankly, that would be wise for Johnson to wait out that wave, let someone like free-agent-to-be James Bradberry set the market, and then work from that point. Well played, sir.

A potential Johnson extension might pique my interest the most.

On the one hand, Johnson has certainly earned a new deal in Chicago. There is no denying that much. He’s a three-year starter at one of the most challenging positions to start as a rookie. He has also grown into a locker room leader. Keep in mind he was the Bears’ nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year, which is no small feat. Johnson also earned honorary captaincy, a nod to his growth as a player. And Johnson even grew into a leadership role as a young veteran. This stuff matters when it comes to weighing an extension.

But on the other hand, so do Johnson’s injury concerns. That Johnson has missed time due to injuries in each of his first three seasons as a pro will likely weigh heavily in extension conversations. I suppose that is fair in some regard. Availability is often seen as the most important ability for NFL talent evaluators. Sure, we saw Johnson gut it out and play through injuries last year. That was a testament to his growth, as well as his willingness and ability to play through pain. There is a badge of honor that NFL players get playing through injury. And I know fans respect it when they do. Nevertheless, Johnson’s durability will still likely be a point of emphasis in extension discussions.

We’ve previously discussed the extension framework and possibilities for Johnson, Mooney, and Kmet. And I’d encourage you to read those posts for additional perspective and depth. In the meantime, we’ll continue keeping an eye on Johnson (and others) as the offseason rolls along.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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