When the Cincinnati Bengals absolutely needed him, Jessie Bates III played up to his potential.
The fourth-year free safety had one of his best games in Cincinnati’s Super Bowl defeat against the Los Angeles Rams. Bates was targeted three times, allowing 13 yards on one reception and coming away with an interception in the end zone that saved a potential Rams touchdown.
Super Bowl LVI was the culmination of a phenomenal playoff showcase for Bates, who ended up as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded player (90.0) over their four-week postseason run.
Not only was 90.0 the highest among Bengals players, it ranks third for all defenders this postseason, trailing Von Miller of the Rams (93.0) and Willie Gay of the Kansas City Chiefs (90.2). Logan Wilson (76.4), who had a fantastic Super Bowl as well, was the closest Bengals defender to Bates during the playoffs.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Bates, who is scheduled to become a free agent in about a month’s time. It’s expected that the Bengals will place the franchise tag on him, but the hope is they’ll eventually reach an agreement for a long-term contract.
Had the Bengals missed the playoffs, Bates would’ve entered the offseason after not playing his best. PFF graded him with a 56.2 during the regular season. The perception of the soon-to-be 25-year-old would be vastly different had he not strung together a tremendous stretch of postseason games. He had more interceptions (2) and passes defensed (6) in the playoffs than he had in the entire regular season, which seems to validate the jump in grade.
The Bates we saw over the past month matches what we watched in 2020, when Bates was eventually named to the All-Pro 2nd Team. His representation will surely mention that as negotiations will heat up in the coming weeks. The Bengals would be wise to listen.