The hits keep on coming for the Chicago Bears. They suffered an embarrassing loss last Sunday. In addition, a situation over Justin Fields and whether he is the guy for the franchise is boiling over. Now, they have another disgruntled player.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson reportedly requested a trade ahead of the NFL trade deadline. The deadline is on Tuesday at 4 PM Eastern. A team like the Bears that is rebuilding desperately needs to keep one of their best players.
Johnson is in the middle of the best season of his career. He entered Sunday's game allowing just a 47.8 percent completion rate, has not allowed a touchdown, and has allowed 4.6 yards per target, all career-best. Additionally, covering Davante Adams, one of the best wide receivers in the league, he had two interceptions, also a career-high.
The Chicago Bears and Jaylon Johnson were in discussions on a contract extension, but have not been able to come to an agreement.
Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract. He is in line to get a big pay raise. However, it seems that they could not agree on details. After talks stalled, Johnson requested the trade. The team granted him permission to seek out a trade partner. Earlier in the month, general manager Ryan Poles spoke on Johnson's contract negotiation. It seemed that he felt that the negotiation was one-sided.
"We’re in a phase where we want to retain homegrown talent. That’s important. But again, it takes two sides to make something happen, so we’ll see if that works out."- Ryan Poles
Johnson is one of the top cornerbacks in the league. This is a passing league so having elite cornerbacks is critical for success. The Bears are in the middle of a rebuild (again) so the roster is in flux. However, at some point, the team has to make a move to keep their good players. They did re-sign tight end Cole Kmet before the season started but they were unable to do the same with Johnson.
This is the second time in as many years that Poles has had a problem in contract negotiations. In both situations, the players requested a trade. Last year, linebacker Roquan Smith, also in the final year of his rookie deal, was frustrated with the way talks progressed. When the two sides were far apart on details, he went public with his trade request early in the season. Eventually, Poles shipped Smith to the Baltimore Ravens for a second and a fifth-round pick. Smith ended up signing for the $20 million per season he wanted.
It would not be a good look if Poles loses another stellar player due to contract trouble. Having players traded over contract disputes will give Poles the reputation of being stingy and not paying his players what they are worth. Also, Johnson might not be the only player leaving. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney is also in the final year of his rookie deal. There is no word on how those negotiations are going.
In addition to the negotiation problems, Johnson did not immediately buy into head coach Matt Eberflus' HITS principle. HITS stands for Hustle, Intensity, Turnovers, and Smart play.
"No, I didn't buy in right away. It was just something that I wasn't familiar with, something I wasn't used to doing, so naturally there's going to be some back-and-forth."- Matt Eberflus
After Johnson's big game in Week 7, it appeared that the two sides would come up with an agreement. That apparently was not the case and now we will all be looking at the clock as the time runs down to the deadline. Let's see if the Chicago Bears are sellers again.