One day after not being sent packing at the NFL’s Trade Deadline, Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson got a chance to address the assembled media at Halas Hall to discuss the state of things from his perspective.
And the vibe is … a mixed bag. Because of course! Why would it be anything other than a toss-up?
In one breath, Johnson admitted his surprise to still be with the team after the trade deadline. But in another, Johnson reiterated that he wanted to stay with the team long-term. Neither statement was shocking (in isolation). But both caught my attention.
Johnson has always been a straight shooter, so I’m not surprised he was open about being surprised he wasn’t traded after requesting a deal. And Johnson’s stance on a long-term deal to stay in Chicago has been consistent dating back to December of 2022. The combination of Johnson’s on-the-field skill, presence as a locker room leader, mic skills, and desire to stick around (despite the organization being a special type of mess right now) makes me hope the two sides cut a deal. And maybe they will. That Johnson is still with the Bears gives the two sides to re-connect at some point.
So … what is Johnson looking for?
“Arguably, I feel like I’m the best corner in the game right now,” Johnson said. “I’m not asking to change the market or break records. I’m not asking for any of that. But I’m also not just going to take anything.”
This vibes with Johnson’s comments in late October, in which he said he is looking for “respect” and “security” in his next contract. And I can’t blame him one bit for wanting both of those things. But I reckon the main issue here is that there is a gap between what the Bears have offered and what he could get in the open market (based on his conversations with other teams while he was seeking a trade). Ideally, the two sides could take their two figures and bridge the gap. But nothing about the 2023 Bears season has gone ideally to this point. Why would it start now?
Johnson has been a solid corner and should be seen as a building block for this defense. Not only has his play been strong, he has earned captainship and is a vocal leader. Yes, injuries have kept Johnson from playing a full season in each of his first four years. But a healthy Johnson has been everything you’d want out of a corner. So much so that you could probably live with the few games he’ll miss every year if he were to continue playing at a high level.
In the last two weeks, Johnson has laid out what he was looking for in a contract (respect, security) and how he wants to be treated in negotiations. Based on recent events, an extension probably isn’t going to be top of mind right now. But maybe the two sides need to simply take a break, circle the wagons, and come back to the table after cooler heads prevail. If not, then we should buckle in for a potentially bumpy offseason.