Bear Downs: All Eyes on Jaylon Johnson After Montez Sweat’s Contract Extension

Bears Jaylon Johnson

Oftentimes, one player signing a contract for life-changing money – even for someone who is already a multi-millionaire – can put the spotlight on another. But, after the Chicago Bears inked recently-acquired EDGE defender Montez Sweat to a massive, four-year, $98 million contract – which is worth up to $105 million and has $72.6 million on guarantees, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on November 4 – that is exactly where cornerback Jaylon Johnson finds himself.

“I didn’t really think too much of it,” Johnson said about the initial trade for Sweat during his media availability on November 1. “It would be a different situation if it was a trade and then sign. That would be, in a sense, I feel like something that I would feel more so than just an initial trade.”

Johnson requested a trade ahead of the October 31 trade deadline.

Jaylon Johnson Leads Things to Watch as Bears Extend Montez Sweat

1) Jaylon Johnson’s Future in Chicago

He felt negotiations with the Bears about a contract extension had broken down. Bears general manager Ryan Poles said that he wanted to keep Johnson but did reveal his price tag in a trade was a late first-round pick or an early second.

The Bears selected Johnson with the No. 50 overall pick in 2020.

He has yet to earn any season-long honors, and his lack of takeaways and durability concerns have played a part in him not garnering similar attention as some of his peers.

Bears’ Jaquan Brisker Sends Strong Message on Jaylon Johnson

Johnson has just three career interceptions, two of which he got this season, to go with three forced fumbles and one recovery in his three-plus seasons. He has yet to play an entire season in his career, even missing two games this year with a hamstring injury.

His effectiveness is clear, however. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 50% of their passes in his direction this season. There are 11 other defenders to hold opposing passers to 50% completion or worse while seeing at least 25 targets entering Week 9, per Stathead.

Johnson has seen 28 targets come his way this season.

The corner was candid in his disappointment that nothing – be it an extension or a trade – took place before Tuesday.

But was also clear that his focus is on the Bears’ Week 9 opponents, the New Orleans Saints, and not his looming contract situation which he said he will not discuss for the rest of the season.

Poles said that they would try to keep negotiating with Johnson, though, and felt as though the two sides never got deep enough into negotiations to arrive at a final number. He did disclose that they were working on getting an extension done with Sweat as soon as possible, a notable decision given Johnson’s comments on that exact thing.

“I know the opportunity is there and somebody has to get paid,” Johnson said. “I know that”

Asked directly whether he would take issue with this situation playing out, Johns assured that it “wouldn’t” sit well with him, “for sure”.

He did acknowledge that the team can just apply the franchise tag in the offseason. That would lock him in at $19.5 million, per Over The Cap’s projections for next season. But the Bears will have the cap space to lock him up long-term if they – and he – so choose.

2) Montez Sweat’s Snaps

With Sweat set to be active in Week 9 versus the Saints, where and how often he plays will certainly be something to monitor. He has had less than one week to digest the playbook so we might only get a small glimpse of what he’s capable of.

Sweat has taken a few snaps inside at tackle during his career, though. That could open up some intriguing possibilities in obvious passing situations.

“I’m excited to play in the Superdome. I know Derek Carr is a talented quarterback. They got nice linemen with a nice back. I’m just ready for the challenge,” Sweat told Clocker Sports after his first practice on November 2. “I’m just here to help with whatever they need me to do. Do whatever they tell me to do. And just be an asset to the young guys, and just get after it.”

Defenses have sacked Carr 19 times this season; 12th-most in the NFL.

3) DeMarcus Walker’s Alignment

Sweat will eventually man one starting spot, presumably opposite Yannick Ngakoue. But current starter DeMarcus Walker said that there have been no conversations about him playing more at defensive tackle. He also referred to Sweat as “more competition” at the position.

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Walker is a leader in the locker room. He is also the team’s second-highest-graded starting defensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus. Walker ranks behind the recently extended Andrew Billings.

He grades out higher than Ngakoue – who has the third-lowest grade on the defense – in both run and pass defense. Perhaps this means Ngakoue gets relegated to a situational role. He signed a one-year, $10 million contract during the latter stages of training camp.

4) Tyson Bagent-DJ Moore Connection

DJ Moore expressed some frustration with not getting more looks in the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. But he also noted how the defense was covering him. The Bears are also still awaiting Justin Fields’ return to action from a dislocated thumb.

Undrafted free agent rookie Tyson Bagent is starting under center for the third straight week. He must learn the lesson Fields did before getting injured.

He has to trust Moore in 1–on-1 situations.

Bagent admitted as much during his media availability this week. He noted one play between him and Moore in particular as a missed connection. More reps will only help, but the mission gets even tougher this week. Saints No. 1 corner Marshon Lattimore is allowing just 56.3% completion in his coverage this season.