Bears CB Jaylon Johnson pushes toward season unworried by contract

Johnson reiterated Monday that he will not let his contract situation hinder his preparation.

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Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson stretching before practice.

Jaylon Johnson is going into the final season of his rookie contract.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson is staying calm and going about his work as he enters the last season of his rookie contract without an extension.

Johnson reiterated Monday after practice that while securing that money is important, it’s not preoccupying him.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’m going out and playing my game. I’m trying to get a lot of interceptions this year. That’s what I’m focused on. The contract will come when it comes.”

Whether that comes from the Bears or in free agency, it’ll likely be big.

Cornerback is one of the most valued positions in the NFL, and the top seven have contracts that average at least $18 million per season. The Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs, who went one pick after Johnson in the 2020 draft, signed a five-year, $97 million extension last month. Johnson said he hasn’t quite put himself in that stratosphere yet but is striving to get there.

“I love the game, but I also play the game for the check,” he said. “You grow up knowing the biggest thing is getting to that second contract, and that’s when you change your family’s lives.”

Johnson figures to be a key piece of the Bears’ future and would be an obvious candidate to sign to a contract extension before the season starts Sept. 10. At 24, he’s the leader of an up-and-coming group at cornerback, and general manager Ryan Poles has said he hopes to keep Johnson for a long time.

The best thing Johnson can do to boost his value is have an attention-grabbing season, and that starts with getting interceptions. He has only one in 39 career games and is intent on being more disruptive.

“The main thing for me is turnovers,” he said. “I work on technique, I work on covering and doing all that. I don’t miss too many tackles — it’s not really too much that I absolutely need to get better at and change. I just need to impact the game and create more turnovers.”

Santos sails along

Everything has been calm for the Bears at kicker since Cairo Santos arrived in 2020, and it’s a luxury to no longer have to fret over it. He set the Bears’ record by making 93.8% of his field goals that season and, at 89.7% for his Bears career, is the most accurate kicker they’ve ever had.

Santos, who made a 50-yarder against the Colts last week, has had a steady camp and expects to be even better this season.

“It’s probably the best that I’ve had since I’ve been here as far as my confidence level,” he said. “Been making a lot of kicks throughout camp. All that leads to feeling great going into the season.”

Moore an option?

Speaking of special teams, Bears No. 1 wide receiver DJ Moore has been getting reps as the punt returner.

It’s certainly an enticing option to put one of the team’s most explosive players back there, but it sounds like he’s putting in time there as a contingency.

Special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower said he “wouldn’t be the starter back” there, and the Bears are still trying to develop Velus Jones for that role.

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