Safety wasn’t viewed as a big need for the Bengals going into the NFL Draft, but it was an area they wanted another playmaker at.
That’s why they selected Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates with the 54th overall pick. Going into the draft, Bates was regarded as one of the best play-making safeties, and the Bengals needed to find a way to upgrade a secondary that didn’t force enough turnovers in 2017.
In two years (2016-17) of action at Wake Forest, Bates totaled 179 tackles, including 9.5 for losses with six interceptions, nine pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He also served as a punt returner for the Demon Deacons, averaging 9.0 yards on 26 career returns with one score.
Many experts thought he was someone worthy of a second-round pick, including Matt Miller, who compared Bates to former Bengals safety Reggie Nelson. That’s exactly what this defense has been missing since he left in 2016.
But first thing’s first: Bates has to prove himself in Cincinnati and show he belongs in this league. The good news for him is he’ll still make a pretty penny with his first NFL contract.
Bates signed a four-year contract with the Bengals worth $4,947,817. He received a $1,678,412 signing bonus which is paid out in four increments of $419,603 over the net four years, and his 2019 base salary of $480,000 is also fully guaranteed.
If the Bengals were to cut Bates in 2019, they would be on the hook for $1.9 million in dead cap space. That numbers drops to $839,206 in 2020.
Here is a look at Bates’ contract, courtesy of Over The Cap:
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how the Bengals incorporate Bates with Shawn Williams and George Iloka having both safety spots locked down. That brings into question how soon the Bengals will be able to get their second-round pick onto the field.
But while they form a solid duo, when one of them is injured, it’s a big step back to Josh Shaw, and Clayton Fejedelem is still a bit of an unknown.
And frankly, Iloka and Williams aren’t so good that Bates can’t take a starting spot from one of them at some point during his rookie contract.