Cincinnati Bengals superstar safety Jessie Bates III is “as good as gone” in free agency, according to a recent report from The Athletic. It’s an expected outcome after Bates and the Bengals have been involved in a long-lasting contract dispute. Bates begrudgingly played out the 2022 campaign on the franchise tag.
Jessie Bates III has been seeking a multi-year extension that would pay him top-end market value, which is currently around $15 million annually. The Bengals possess $36.3 million in cap space, but are preoccupied with future contracts for Joe Burrow and possibly Tee Higgins as well. The reality is that the Bengals can’t afford to pay the star safety.
His market will be competitive—he’s the best available safety. We’ve swiftly identified three potential fits for Jessie Bates III via free agency.
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot is armed with more than $55 million in cap space. It represents a stark difference when compared to Atlanta’s two last offseasons, where the Falcons ate significant portions of dead money and were forced into contract restructures just to become cap-compliant. Fontenot should be an aggressive player in free agency.
New defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen requires several personnel upgrades in order to successfully implement his scheme. Second-year safety Richie Grant continues to develop nicely, but Atlanta’s secondary could use an upgrade opposite him. The Falcons allowed a 25th-ranked 231.9 passing yards per contest in 2022. Landing Bates would give Atlanta a trio of ascending playmakers in defensive backfield alongside Grant and A.J. Terrell.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are currently $8 million above the cap but have several contracts that can be restructured to create cap space. By converting base salaries and roster bonuses into signing bonuses, the Packers can create approximately $12.2 million by restructuring David Bakhtiari’s contract. Restructuring Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary could create an additional $11.4 million and $8.7 million respectively in cap space. Alternatively, Gary may be a candidate for an extension that frees up immediate money. The Packers should be willing to borrow from the future as long as Aaron Rodgers remains their quarterback to extend their Super Bowl window, much like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers often did with Tom Brady.
If the Packers are going to splurge on an expensive free agent with their newly-found money, there’s a good argument to be made for Bates. Adrian Amos played 2022 on an expiring contract and Darnell Savage suffered through a nightmarish campaign that saw him relegated to backup duties on several occasions. Stopping the pass has become a crucial key to victory over their NFC North arch-rival Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Do you think the Raiders need to defend the pass better after allowing a 29th-ranked 242.2 passing yards per game? Competing for the division title alongside Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert insinuates the answer to that question is yes. The presence of Sean Payton in Denver could also rehabilitate Russell Wilson. The Raiders need to get their secondary in order immediately.
The Raiders own the league’s fourth-most cap space at $46.3 million after releasing quarterback Derek Carr. Signing Bates and Jimmy Garoppolo would represent a successful signing period for general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels. Second-year safety Tre’Von Moehrig struggled to acclimate to a new defensive scheme. Settling in next to a playmaking veteran like Bates would aid Moehrig’s development.
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