Jordan Schultz reports Bears, Jaylon Johnson ‘inching closer' to an extension

Jordan Schultz reports Bears, Jaylon Johnson ‘inching closer' to an extension originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

One of the major boxes the Bears must check this offseason is bringing back Jaylon Johnson.

Recently, NFL insider Jordan Schultz provided new, key insights into where the Bears and Johnson stand in their negotiations for an extension. Remember, those talks stalled during the season and the window to franchise tag players around the league is now open.

"It is my understanding that both sides have had really good talks, they are inching closer toward a potential deal," Schultz said on a Bleacher Report live stream. "But make no mistake as well, if the Bears cannot find common ground with Jaylon Johnson, he too, like [Michael] Pittman, like [Tee] Higgns, like I believe will happen with Christian Wilkins, will get tagged."

At the end of the season press conference, general manager Ryan Poles made his feelings about Johnson clear. He wants Johnson to come back to the Bears, no questions asked.

“Jaylon’s not going to go anywhere and we’ll work through it to get something done.”

Poles amplified that sentiment at the NFL combine, providing an update on their negotiations.

“Conversations are going well at this time,” Poles said on Tuesday. “We feel like we've done a really good job coming to the table strong and showing the respect that he's due just in terms of his production through his career and really an emphasis on the turnovers he created this past year.

“Our expectation is that's going to continue to go as he's with the Bears.”

Johnson finished his best season to date last year, solidifying himself as one of the league's top corners.

He finished the season with four interceptions, one touchdown, one forced fumble and 36 combined tackles. Most impressively, Johnson recorded the best coverage rate amongst cornerbacks, according to PFF. His opposing target completion rate finished at a blistering 55.2%.

There's no question Johnson needs to get paid. Now that the Bears have their marquee pass rusher in place (Montez Sweat), it's time to pair him with their franchise cornerback. Johnson is that guy.

If they want to do that long term, however, Schultz indicated they'll have to cough up a pretty penny.

"It's gonna be a significant number to get this deal done," Schultz said. "You could potentially be looking at somewhere around $20 million for a Jaylon Johnson per year extension to happen."

Johnson indicated prior on the "All Gas No Brakes" show with Keyshawn Johnson he wants to be the league's highest-paid corner.

Currently, Denzel Ward owns the highest-valued contract for a cornerback, making north of $100 million over five years. Jaire Alexander makes the most on a per-year basis, bringing in $21 million per season on his contract.

That means Johnson might be looking at asking for $22 million per year on his next contract. Remember, after a league-wide increase and cutting Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair, the Bears have the third-most cap space in the NFL with around $80 million.

But if the Bears and Johnson can't find common ground on a deal, they have their franchise tag available. Most believe the Bears will inevitably use the franchise tag on Johnson, meaning he would play on a one-year deal worth the average salaries of the top-five cornerback contracts, just south of $19 million.

The window for the NFL teams to tag players opened on Feb. 20. It closes at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, March 5.

Will the Bears tag Johnson? At this juncture, it sounds like a deal could be on the horizon.

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