The Chicago Bears have an important offseason ahead of them. Their biggest decision will undoubtedly be whether or not they continue to move forward with quarterback Justin Fields or use the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on his replacement (i.e. Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels). There is also another huge decision they will have to make, and that's what to do with star cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Johnson, their 2020 second-round pick out of Utah, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The two sides could not reach an agreement on a contract extension before this past season. Now, Johnson sent a message to the Bears. While he would like to stay in Chicago, he's going to be looking for the money.
"Heart's definitely in Chicago, mind's definitely on the money," Johnson revealed to NFL.com during Pro Bowl practice this past Saturday. "So, I mean, we'll figure out if we can make them both come together and get something done. I'm looking forward to see what's to come."
Jaylon Johnson expresses desire to remain with Bears, but 'mind's definitely on the money'
This will be an interesting decision for the Bears. This is a team that will have $49 million in cap space at their disposal, which ranks eighth-most in the NFL, per Spotrac. They have 16 players set to be free agents, with Johnson being their best.
Spotrac projects Johnson will earn an annual average salary of $15.7 million, which would be the 10th highest among all cornerbacks entering the 2024 league year.
Johnson and the Bears were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, leading to the cornerback requesting a trade ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. Ultimately, Johnson stayed in Chicago, as no trade was agreed upon.
There's also the question of whether the Bears would allow Johnson to hit free agency. They could decide to use the franchise tag if they are unable to reach an agreement on a long-term contract and prevent Johnson from hitting the open market.
Johnson is coming off a strong walk-year with the Bears, which is why he is projected to earn over $15 million. In 14 games played, Johnson recorded 32 tackles and 18 defensive stops. In pass coverage, Johnson allowed 25 receptions for 195 yards and one touchdown on 50 targets while recording six pass breakups and four interceptions, per Pro Football Focus. With that, Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
The Bears will have a decision to make. Losing Johnson could be huge. The cornerback has let it be known that he'd be open to returning to Chicago but also wants to get paid this offseason.