3 Bears impending free agents who need to be brought back, 3 the team should let walk

2024 is shaping up to be one of the most important years in the long history of the Chicago Bears. What free agent moves should GM Ryan Poles make to start the year off right?

Jaylon Johnson is set to receive a lucrative contract this offseason. Should the Bears be the ones to give it to him?
Jaylon Johnson is set to receive a lucrative contract this offseason. Should the Bears be the ones to give it to him? / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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Jaylon Johnson might be the best corner in the NFL, the Bears can't let him get away

Every team dreams of drafting a player and then watching him turn into a star. For the Bears, Jaylon Johnson is that guy. The former Utah Ute was a second-round pick for Chicago in 2020, and he blossomed this past year into a second team All-Pro and one of the premier shutdown corners in the league.

Johnson is in line to make much more than the $1.6 million he took home this past season. In fact, he's set to break the bank. Spotrac projects the market value of his upcoming deal at five years and almost $78 million. The Bears have the cap space to keep him home, but will they?

Chicago's roster is loaded with young cornerback talent. Second-year corner Kyler Gordon was one of the team's best playmakers, and rookies Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith were integral pieces of a defense that, by the end of the season, was one of the best in the NFL. Stevenson in particular got better and better as the season went along, taking home NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after his two-interception performance against the Falcons in Week 17.

The Bears' ability to draft and develop cornerbacks could lead them to conclude that they can survive without Johnson. Maybe they could, but for this defense to be all that it can be, it needs #33 locking down one half of the field. Matt Eberflus knows how important Johnson is to everything he wants to do on defense. If the Bears keep Johnson and the rest of their young secondary continues to improve, it could be the best unit in the league.