The Cincinnati Bengals and superstar safety Jessie Bates III were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension prior to Friday’s deadline. The Bengals and Bates had until Friday afternoon to sign a long-term contract following Cincinnati’s decision to slap Bates with the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Bates has yet to officially sign the tag and according to multiple reports, Bates has no current intention of reporting to training camp or playing under the tag. It immediately places Bates’ future (and present) in Cincinnati in doubt.
Bengals General Manager Duke Tobin has continuously refused to meet Bates’ long-term contract demands. The former Wake Forest product is feeling underappreciated by the Bengals’ brass. Since entering the league as a second-round selection in 2018, Bates has totaled an impressive 408 tackles, 35 pass breakups, and 10 interceptions. Bates is one of the league’s elite safeties.
Should Bates end his holdout and decide to play in 2022, he’ll be doing so under the current franchise tag number, which will pay him approximately $12.9 million. It’s well below Bates’ alleged annual demands, which would come in somewhere between $17-18 million annually via a long-term extension. Several NFL franchises are likely monitoring Bates’ situation closely while pondering a potential trade for the back-end difference-maker.
A team could acquire Bates, pay him under the tag this year, and award him with an extension in 2023 and beyond. We’ve identified three potential trade partners for the Bengals and Bates.
Philadelphia Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman has been one of the most aggressive decision-makers across the league this offseason. Roseman completed a stunning draft-day trade with the Tennessee Titans for superstar wide receiver A.J. Brown. Roseman has also invested considerable resources into this defense, particularly in the secondary.
Roseman immediately pounced on the new-found availability of cornerback James Bradberry, who was released from his contract by the Eagles’ division rivals, the New York Giants. Bradberry ultimately signed a one-year contract with the Eagles worth roughly $7.2 million. Roseman continued to retool Philadelphia’s secondary by signing veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt.
Tartt’s contract is barely worth $1 million, however, and his presence would likely do little to deter Roseman from exploring a trade for Bates should his services become available. The Eagles are clearly in win-now mode. Bates’ arrival would increase their chances of postseason success.
The Indianapolis Colts are desperate to place last season’s failures in their rearview mirror. A soul-crushing Week 18 defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars prevented the Colts from qualifying for the postseason. Colts General Manager Chris Ballard has furiously sought improvement with several high-level additions this offseason.
New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley replaces the outgoing Matt Eberflus, who accepted an offer to become the new head coach of the Chicago Bears. Ballard has made necessary changes to Indianapolis’ secondary as a result. Rock-Ya Sin was traded for Yannick Ngakoue, and Stephon Gilmore signed a lucrative two-year contract. Additional secondary changes could be coming.
Colts starting safety Khari Willis surprisingly announced his retirement in mid-June. Willis’ unexpected departure leaves the Colts with a new-found hole at safety. Rookie third-round selection Nick Cross may be asked to immediately step into a starting role. The Colts could look to make a move at safety in the wake of Willis’ decision.
The Atlanta Falcons need more difference-makers on defense as they continue to prepare for their future. The 25-year-old Bates could be viewed as a cornerstone piece for a rebuilding Falcons franchise. Falcons General Manager Terry Fontenot began molding a new-look defense by drafting Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, and Troy Andersen.
A.J. Terrell is a budding superstar at cornerback. Surrounding Terrell with more talent could help the former Clemson product elevate his game to the next level. The underwhelming duo of Dean Marlowe and Erik Harris are currently expected to play starring roles for the Falcons at safety.
Falcons Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has a rich history of coaching elite safeties throughout his tenures as DC for the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Tennessee Titans. Ed Reed and Kevin Byard are two safeties Pees has coached. Pees would welcome an opportunity to coach a player of Bates’ caliber.
Fontenot dealt with difficulties against the salary cap this offseason, but 2023 is a different story. The Falcons are currently set to have north of $30 million in cap space next summer, via Spotrac. The Falcons possess the financial resources necessary to aggressively pursue Bates.