As we continue to look at potential contract extensions for current Chicago Bears, Jaylon Johnson is one name that makes plenty of sense to extend. Johnson has been a key component of the Bears' secondary the last few seasons in what has otherwise been a pretty empty cupboard.
Combine that with the fact that the Bears still need to spend more money to hit the spending floor before March of 2024, they’ll be extending at least one more current player beyond Cole Kmet.
Could it be Jaylon Johnson? He’s a definite contender but figuring out where his extension could fall is rather challenging for multiple reasons.
First of all, Johnson just turned 24 in April. He is young. He would be the youngest cornerback in the NFL to receive an extension and that includes Trevon Diggs who turns 25 in September and just received a healthy extension from the Dallas Cowboys.
Conversely however, Johnson has missed 11 games during his first three seasons. We all know, the most important ability in the NFL is availability. When Johnson is on the field, he makes an impact, but the Bears will certainly take into account his health when discussing a commitment to him in the future.
Finally, trying to find a comp for Johnson is quite challenging because of the unique situation he’s been in to start his career. Jaylon has been given the task of covering elite receivers. He’s had to do it with very little help from a thin secondary. And he does his best work preventing the ball from coming his way, not when it in fact comes his way.
What does that last part mean? It means because Jaylon’s secondary mates have been less than stellar, when he covers his man well, he is rarely challenged by quarterbacks because it’s a pretty easy option for the QB to head to their second or third read, and knowing they have a weaker player on them, odds are they are going to be open.
Because Jaylon draws tough assignments, when those assignments inevitably beat him from time-to-time, they are going to be the QBs first or second read, and he’ll fire the ball to them immediately. Jaylon has been targeted just 201 times over his three seasons, and QBs have only completed 58% of the passes his direction.
By comparison, the rest of the Bears' defense has been targeted 1304 times over the last three seasons and QBs have completed 67% of those passes. As you can see, quarterbacks have plenty of success against this secondary, but not as much against Jaylon.
So while passers have avoided Jaylon and they don’t have consistent success when they do throw his way, they do get some wins. Jaylon has surrendered 11 touchdowns over three seasons with just one interception. When teams pay cornerbacks, they traditionally like to pay ones that get turnovers, and that’s something Jaylon hasn’t been able to achieve in his first three seasons.
So finding a comp for Jaylon is quite difficult because of this scenario. Because of his lack of turnovers, you won’t find a comp in the top 9. Those are all corners making $17 million per season and above. So let’s look at the next tier.
In this tier, you’ll find players like Jamel Dean and James Bradberry, and this is where we start to cook. Dean is similar to Johnson in that he doesn’t make a ton of plays on the ball, but he is sticky to his receivers and leaves QBs with tough windows to complete passes. Last season, Dean and Johnson had similar pass break-up numbers and similar completion percentages against them. Bradberry is an interesting comp because he was with the New York Giants as their best player in a woeful secondary. He left for the Philadelphia Eagles and with more talent around him, he really elevated his game and earned himself an extension in Philly.
Dean received a 4-year, $52 million contract with Tampa and Bradberry received a 3-year, $38 million deal with Philly. That puts Dean at $13 million per season and Bradberry at $12.67. Bradberry turns 30 this year and Dean turns 27. As we said earlier, Jaylon won’t turn 25 until 2024.
If Jaylon is extended prior to this season, between the injuries and a level of production that isn’t quite at Dean and Braberry’s level, he’s probably going to have to look for something just underneath that. Would the Bears commit to a four-year deal with Johnson on a player that has missed a big chunk of time during his first three seasons? They would probably look for something closer to a three-year deal. That may be something Jaylon is on board with because if he plays well during that contract, he will be a free agent prior to his 28-year old season, and he would also have a chance to land a second hefty contract.
Because of Jaylon’s age, even with the injuries, I think he can push on their average salaries, but I can’t see the Bears agreeing to a salary above theirs. In terms of guarantees, three-year deals in that range have settled around $20 million to $23 million. I think with Johnson’s injury history, the guarantee would probably be on the lower end. If Johnson is extended this month, I think he and the Bears could agree to a three-year deal of around $37 million with approximately $20 million in guarantees.
Do you think the Bears will extend Johnson?