Jaylen Johnson Franchise Tag: Signed a long-term deal with the Bears after being acquired by

By Kevin Fishbein, Larry Holder and Adam Johns

The Chicago Bears won't have to hold onto cornerback Jaylen Johnson's franchise tag for long. Pierce and Johnson agreed to a four-year contract worth $76 million, a league source confirmed Athletic.

Johnson, who was given the franchise tag on Tuesday, will receive $54.4 million guaranteed in the deal, which is 71.6 percent of the total, making him the top prospect.

The $19 million average salary pushes Johnson just outside the top five highest-paid cornerbacks at that level, but Johnson will make $43.8 million in full when he signs (second-most for corners) and $28 million in first-year cash. Second in the corner.

A Pro Bowl corner in 2023, Johnson had a career year with four interceptions, including a Big Six, to go with 10 passes defensed. It was also his best season, according to Advanced Stats, as he allowed just 4.8 yards per target and a passer rating of 50.9, per Pro Football Note.

“I'm very proud of Jaylen, the way he's stepped up to the challenge of being a ball guy, and he's definitely done that,” coach Matt Eberfluss said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He's a great leader not only for our defensive room, but our entire defensive room. He's really starting to become a good leader on our football team. So I'm excited for him.

Johnson turns 25 in April, and this deal would allow him to hit the open market again before he turns 29.

A second-round pick of former Bears general manager Ryan Pace in 2020, Johnson was one of the top rookie corners with 15 passes defensed. He has been the team's No. 1 corner in each of the past three seasons.

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The Bears keep their top corner in the fold without making him a high-paid corner by some metrics, while Johnson could cash in on his best season. Current GM Ryan Poles could reward one of them, which always makes an impact in the locker room — especially at Johnson's position, which includes second- and third-year pros, Dyrick Stevenson and Kyler Gordon, respectively.

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How Johnson stacks up

There is no doubt that the Bears cornerback has improved each season. Here's a chart of his opposing passer rating for each of the past four seasons, via Stathead:

  • 2020: 107.5
  • 2021: 101.9
  • 2022: 94.6
  • 2023: 50.9

Here's how Johnson topped opposing passer rating rankings for cornerbacks last season. Also listed are interceptions and opposing completion percentage:

Johnson and the franchise tags for Kansas City Chiefs L'Jarius Snead narrow the cornerback crop for free agency. But teams typically don't let top cornerbacks walk, so it makes clear sense for the Bears to target Johnson. Now the Bears have Johnson for the long haul with a new contract. — Larry Holder, veteran NFL writer

Continued investment in security

Johnson is the second holdover from the Bears to receive a contract extension in the Pace era. Tight end Cole Kemet was number one last year. But by extending Johnson, Eberflus continued his significant investment in bear conservation. Three of the biggest contracts on the Bears' books belong to defensive linemen. The Bears acquired defensive end Montez Sweat from the Washington Commanders last offseason, then signed him to a four-year, $98 million contract. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds signed a four-year, $72 million contract in free agency last year. — Adam Johns, Senior Writer Bears

How did we get here?

When Pierce and Johnson couldn't agree on a new deal last fall, he requested a trade and seemed interested in the possibility of free agency. The Poles set a high price, and Johnson remained a bear while continuing to play at a high level until January, when the GM said Johnson was going nowhere.

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Both sides got on the same page and a deal was struck before allowing them to pull out in OTAs, as others on the tag usually do. It turned out to be a good situation for the player and the team. — Kevin Fishbein, Bears staff writer

Required reading

(Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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