A source confirmed an ESPN report late Monday that Johnson requested a trade and the Bears gave him permission to search for a new home. But a deal for Johnson didn’t work out before the 3 p.m. deadline.
Now the Bears can keep their top cornerback for the final nine games, and general manager Ryan Poles has until free agency begins in March to work out a long-term contract. The Bears also could use the franchise or transition tag.
However, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reported Johnson does not plan to engage in contract talks the rest of the season.
Johnson, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, made it known for months he would like an extension with the Bears. But he said Thursday that contract extension talks with the Bears were “slower than expected.” When asked last week what he was seeking, he said “security.”
“That’s what we play the game for,” Johnson said. “A lot of it goes back to respect as well. It’s not just about taking anything as well. You can throw some numbers at somebody and just hope they take anything, but that’s not what I’m looking to do. I’m looking for respect and security at the end of the day.”
Johnson, 24, is the Bears’ top cornerback. His two interceptions against the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 22 were just the second and third of his career, but he takes pride in shutting down teams’ top receivers.
In 45 games over four seasons, he has 35 passes defended, 143 tackles and three forced fumbles. He has missed at least a couple of games each year with injuries or illnesses, including six games last season.
Poles has built depth at cornerback by drafting Kyler Gordon, Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith the last two years. But the Bears have said many times they value Johnson, including coach Matt Eberflus last week.
“He has done everything we’ve asked,” Eberflus said. “He’s been really good in training camp. He’s worked every single day during that process. He’s done a really good job of improving his craft.
“He’s always been really good in terms of being sticky at the top of routes and being able to close distances and make plays on the ball. Now he’s starting to make those interceptions, which is positive. And the tackling is better.”
Poles said on the team’s pregame radio show Sunday on WMVP-AM 1000 he was proud of the way Johnson played against the Raiders, a game that included his first career pick-six. But Poles noted a new contract has to work for both sides.
The top 15 cornerbacks in the league make between about $13 million and $21 million per year.
“Everybody wants respect. But like I’ve talked about with contracts before, can the team and the player find common ground that makes sense all the way around?” Poles said. “I’ve been really proud of our group with all things contract and cap. (Director of football administration) Matt Feinstein has done a great job with research to make sure we’re seeing things the right way. So we’ll see how things go.
“We’re in a phase where we want to retain homegrown talent. That’s important. But again, it takes two sides to make something happen.”
Johnson said Thursday he didn’t know which way the contract talks would go.
“I’m waiting to see because somebody can say one thing and you believe it and then something else happens,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen what happened to (former Carolina Panthers running back Christian) McCaffrey. They told him (they) weren’t going to trade him. Trade him at (the last minute). I don’t believe hardly anything I’m told. I’m going off actions.”
The trade request was the second public one by a Bears player in a little more than a year. In August 2022, linebacker Roquan Smith published a letter on social media requesting a trade after contract negotiations didn’t go the way he wanted.
Smith, who signed a five-year, $100 million deal with the Ravens, was named an All-Pro last season. The Bears then signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the offseason to a four-year, $72 million contract with $50 million guaranteed.