The Chicago Bears have a big decision to make at quarterback this offseason. Keep Justin Fields as their starting quarterback or use their overall no. 1 pick in this year’s NFL draft to pick up USC Heisman award winner Caleb Williams. It’s a decision that is getting, rightfully, most of the attention from media.
But the next biggest question for the Bears front office is what to do with star cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who is eligible for free agency in March.
The four-year veteran, who will be 25 by the start of the season, has established himself as one of the very best cornerbacks in the league. And, as is to be expected from an emerging star eligible for free agency, he wants the big bucks.
Torn Between Loyalty And Business?
Johnson, a first-time Pro Bowler coming off a career year, is torn between team loyalty and the business of providing for himself as an athlete with a finite time as an earner.
“Heart’s definitely in Chicago, mind’s definitely on the money,” Johnson told NFL.com at Saturday’s Pro Bowl practice. “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.”
When asked whether he had proven himself an elite NFL CB, the talented defender was 100% real.
“No doubt. No doubt,” he affirmed. “I think just, like I was saying, just through my career, just continuing to get better, continuing to get better.”
“Probably the only thing I have [against me] was not getting turnovers,” he added. “But now, this year I started getting some turnovers, creating. I feel like I’ve always been an exceptional cover guy, so just being able to impact the game and make plays in the air is something I wanted to do, and I went out and did that. And now everybody knows I can take the ball away. So, I feel like there’s really not a box I can’t check.”
Making Him “Franchise”
There’s wide speculation that Chicago may slap the Franchise tag on him, keeping him on the team while also delivering a substantial windfall to Johnson. The Bears are working with enough cap space– reportedly just under $47 million, according to Over the Cap— to handle the payout in stride.
For what it’s worth, Bears general manager Ryan Poles has vowed that Johnson won’t be going anywhere, as possibly attested by the fact that the team opted not to deal him away at the trade deadline last year.
[Jaylon Johnson is] not going to go anywhere and we’ll work through it to get something done,” Poles told NBCSports Chicago in January.
Johnson, himself, appears eager to stay in Chicago and to keep building on what he’s started with his teammates.
Johnson Wants To Stay A Bear
“I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” Johnson told Josh Schrock of NBCSports Chicago back in late December. “It’s easy to say, oh, you want out of somewhere until you get it and then it’s like, ‘Ah, this may not be quite what I want.’
“But I would say for me, I want to stay here, and I want to not make that transition now. I feel like we’re building something special, too, especially with the guys in the locker room. I don’t think it’s something I can get anywhere else. I would like to stay and continue to build and make this better, and sh*t, I want to win some games and get to the playoffs and make a push with the Chicago name, too.”
It’s hard to argue with the statement that the Bears are better WITH Jaylon Johnson on the team. If he ISN’T with the team next season, though, life will have to move on.