Grading the Bears first big signings of free agency this year

For the most part, so far so good in Chicago.

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears
Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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As expected, it's been a busy first day of free agency.

Even though the rules state that teams aren't officially allowed to sign players until Wednesday afternoon, that hasn't stopped the constant flow of reports regarding big names and even bigger contracts. The Bears have been as active as just about any team so far, using their $50 million in cap space to make a couple of notable moves on Day 1.

While Chicago wasn't exactly in the market for the very top talent available in the free agent pool – ultimately, they probably won't regret passing on nine-figure deals for Kirk Cousins and Chris Jones – the Bears did throw some of that cap space around addressing points of need. There figures to be plenty of depth signings to come in the following days and weeks, most of the attention will remain focused on what happens in the next 36-48 hours. There are still holes on the roster, and it'd be surprising to see them go into next season without adding some help, especially on their defensive front and in the wide receiver room.

There's always, of course, the quarterback question as well. While we wait for that all to shake out, however, here's how the Bears' first moves look so far.

Jaylon Johnson, CB

Deal: 4-year, $76 million ($54 million guaranteed)
Grade:
A+

This was a no-brainer for the Bears, and kudos to them for getting it done. It wasn't that long ago when Johnson was demanding a trade, and GM Ryan Poles gets credit for having the longterm vision to see past that request.

Johnson's been one of the best corners in football since coming into the league in 2020, and despite some injury concerns – he's only played 15 games once – is as reliable as CB1s get. On his end, it's a fair deal that throws him a bunch of guaranteed money upfront, and puts him in line to cash in yet again in a few years, when he'll still only be 28 years old.

On the Bears' end, it's also a slam dunk of a deal. They managed to get Johnson under contract for less yearly money than he would have played for on the franchise tag, which is a credit to the cap team in Chicago. Perhaps more importantly, though, are the optics of the deal: after letting a ton of homegrown players walk over the last few seasons, keeping Johnson for the foreseeable future signals that the Bears are entering a new era, one where they feel like they have the pieces in place to compete for NFC North titles.

Not only was it a savvy business move, but it was one that spoke volumes about the state of the team.