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Bears optimistic about signing Johnson to long-term deal


INDIANAPOLIS – Bears general manager Ryan Poles hopes to sign cornerback Jaylon Johnson to a long-term contract extension.

"In the process of getting Jaylon Johnson done," Poles told reporters Tuesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "Conversations are going well at this time. 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.

"When I say, 'come strong,' that means cash flows are strong, guarantees are strong, the term is strong for him. Being with his age, there's a really good opportunity to go back to the market again and continue to earn money and play well and hopefully that's with the Bears for a long period of time, so I'm excited about that. Like I've said about those deals—all the time—it takes two to tango and you've got to find a place that everyone feels comfortable with, so I feel really good about that situation."

Johnson, 24, was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Utah. He has started all 53 games he's played over four seasons, registering 161 tackles, five interceptions, 41 pass breakups, four tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

This past season the 6-foot, 196-pounder was voted second-team All-Pro and named to his first career Pro Bowl. He recorded 36 tackles, a career-high four interceptions—one of which he returned 39 yards for his first career touchdown—10 pass breakups, one tackle-for-loss and one forced fumble.

"I'm so proud of Jaylon the way he improved and the way he took the challenge to be a ball guy and he certainly did that," said coach Matt Eberflus. "He's a great leader not only in our defensive back room but in our whole defensive room too. He's really starting to become a really good leader on our football team. I'm excited about him. Like Ryan said this morning, we want to [sign] him to a long-term deal. Hope they're close. Hope it works out. Certainly excited to have him back."

If a long-term agreement cannot be reached, the Bears have until March 5 to place a franchise tag on Johnson. Players who receive a franchise tag are assured of a one-year contract for a salary that's determined by a complex formula that includes the average of the five highest-paid players at the same position over the previous five seasons or 120 percent of their previous year's salary, whichever is higher.

"I'd like to avoid the franchise tag for him," Poles said. "I think there is really good space for us to find the middle ground. Again, we always have the tag to use, but I really would like to get something done long term."