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Jaylon Johnson lands 4-year extension with Bears, keeping Pro Bowl cornerback as core playmaker

Trent Sprague/Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO — Down the stretch of last season, as cornerback Jaylon Johnson was punctuating his Pro Bowl season, he made it clear his push for a financially rewarding second NFL contract was married to a desire to remain with the Chicago Bears.

“I want to stay here,” Johnson said in Week 17, asserting he wasn’t hellbent on testing the open market of free agency. “I feel like we’re building something special too. Especially with the guys in this locker room. I don’t think it’s something I can get anywhere else.

“I would like to stay and continue to build and make this better. And, (shoot), I want to win some games and get to the playoffs and make a push with this Chicago name too.”

That wish has now been granted.

Two days after the Bears applied the franchise tag to Johnson, they finalized the terms of a four-year, $76 million contract extension that multiple reports say includes more than $43 million in guaranteed money.

Johnson, who will turn 25 in April, is coming off a career season in which he was selected to the Pro Bowl and named a second-team All-Pro. He recorded four interceptions, tied for seventh in the NFL, and cemented his reputation as one of the most reliable cover corners in the league.

At last week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, coach Matt Eberflus expressed his appreciation for what Johnson means to a rapidly improving Bears defense.

“I’m so proud of Jaylon with the way he improved and the way he took the challenge to be a ball guy,” Eberflus said. “And he certainly did that. He’s a great leader not only in our defensive back room, but in our whole defensive room too.”

By applying the franchise tag to Johnson on Tuesday, the Bears exercised a team-friendly mechanism that restricted Johnson’s ability to enter the open market when free agency begins next week. But Johnson and the Bears always had eyes on coming together on a multiyear extension.

That deal was reached Thursday and keeps Johnson as one of the core playmakers on a defense that also includes Pro Bowl defensive end Montez Sweat, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards and fellow cornerback Kyler Gordon.