The Chicago Bears are not going to let Jaylon Johnson leave this offseason. They might have to franchise tag him to make sure he sticks around, but they are not going to let him walk for nothing. Last year, around this time, we projected a possible extension for Johnson. It came to three-years for $36M and $24M guaranteed. After his massive year, what does an extension look like now?
Projecting a contract extension for Jaylon Johnson with the Chicago Bears
The first thought is that Johnson is going to play for the tag at the very lowest. The projected tag cost is $18.8M. So, the Bears are going to have to beat that before they even get a seat at the table because, at worst, Johnson would play for that salary and then potentially make more on the open market in 2025. Or, he would earn the tag again, which is 120% of that.
So, Johnson was confident enough to go into this year without a long-term deal, he has to be thinking the worst case is he gets tagged twice. Taking 120% of the $18.8M would be $22.6M. That would be two years with $41.4M.
That is $20.7M per year. When you look at the top cornerback salaries in the NFL, Jaire Alexander makes $21M per year, Denzel Ward makes $20.1M, and Jalen Ramsey makes $20M. When you look at each deal, Ramsey signed him in 2020, and no one beat that for a year.
In April of 2022, the Browns gave Ward a total of $500K and $225K more in guarantees than Ramsey. A month later, Alexander did not make more total because he signed a four-year deal as opposed to five. However, he did get 900K more per year.
The reality is that if the Chicago Bears want to re-sign Jaylon Johnson beyond the franchise tag, they will have to beat the Alexander contract. They are already locked into the idea of paying him $22.6M in 2025 if it comes to that.
Ward and Alexander were 26 when they signed their deals, and Johnson will be 25. Bumping his salary cap hit for the next two years from $20.7M to $21.5M is not all that much; the only real difference is guaranteeing it for both years and possibly beyond that. If that is the difference between signing Johnson and playing out the tag, will the Bears eventually just pay the extra $800K per year to lock him down?