CB Jaylon Johnson upbeat in return, ‘100%’ intent on contract extension with Bears

There’s peace between Johnson and the Bears, which makes this the perfect time to nail down a deal.

SHARE CB Jaylon Johnson upbeat in return, ‘100%’ intent on contract extension with Bears
Jaylon Johnson was back at Halas Hall on Wednesday after missing the first two weeks of OTAs.

Jaylon Johnson was back at Halas Hall on Wednesday after missing the first two weeks of OTAs.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson has been back at Halas Hall this week, easing outside concerns about his future with the team, and sounded optimistic about his potential contract extension.

Johnson was light and upbeat after practice Wednesday, explaining his absence from the first two weeks of voluntary organized team activities because of personal responsibilities and saying he “100% look[s] forward to staying and extending with the Bears.”

The biggest cause of tension surrounding Johnson’s situation has nothing to do with him, really. It’s mainly rooted in the memory of what happened between general manager Ryan Poles and linebacker Roquan Smith last year. Those two said all the right things a year ago, but ultimately Smith sat out training camp, didn’t get a contract and Poles traded him to the Ravens in the middle of the season.

“His situation is different than my situation,” Johnson said. “I’m not him. My timing is different than his timing. I’m not too caught up in that.”

One similarity, for now, is that Johnson doesn’t have an agent. He parted with Doug Hendrickson of Wasserman last month, according to NFLPA registration records, and said Wednesday he plans to sign with a new agent.

Johnson didn’t comment on early extension conversations but indicated that the Bears grasped when he’d like to have it nailed down. For most players in his position, that would be before the start of training camp late next month, but Johnson didn’t seem set on that as a deadline.

“I’m not worried about the timing of it,” he said. “God’s will will happen. If it’s before, during, whenever it is — I’m not stressed about it.”

He also was clear that missing OTAs was not a negotiating tactic. While those practices are not mandatory, most players attend them unless there’s an injury or contract issue.

“Not even close, no,” he said. “That’s not my character.”

Instead, Johnson said he prioritized spending time with his 3-year-old daughter in Fresno, California, saying, “I’m putting my heart into my daughter. . . . I communicated that to the coaches, and they understood and hopefully respected it.”

He also has a nonprofit in honor of his best friend, Kev’Vion Schrubb, who was shot and killed in 2021.

While on the West Coast, Johnson logged on for meetings over Zoom, stayed in contact with position coach Jon Hoke and watched practice film. He said he has been around long enough to know how to stay up to speed without being on the field for OTAs.

Coach Matt Eberflus seemed annoyed by his absence when OTAs started May 22 but appeared to move on from that. He said things are “great” between him and Johnson and credited him for working from home.

“He came back ready,” Eberflus said.

Johnson figures to be back for mandatory minicamp next week before NFL players go on break until training camp. Both sides have an interest in finishing Johnson’s deal by then.

He’s entering the last season of his rookie contract and carries a $3.6 million salary-cap hit this season, which ranks 42nd at his position. There are 11 corners at $10 million or higher, including Packers two-time Pro Bowl selection Jaire Alexander.

When Alexander signed his four-year, $84 million extension a little over a year ago, Johnson called it a “hell of a deal” and said, “[Shoot], great. Keep paying ’em, so I can get paid.”

Poles invariably has said that his plan is to secure Johnson — he maintained that position on Smith to the end — and envisions the Bears being loaded at cornerback with him, Kyler Gordon and rookie Tyrique Stevenson for years. Poles said of Johnson, “I hope he’s a guy we get to keep here for a while.”

He can make that happen, and at the moment, there’s an amicable atmosphere for negotiations. This situation could go, as Johnson suggested, much differently than Smith’s saga.

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