Before the new league year begins, the Cincinnati Bengals will be focused on what to do with free safety Jessie Bates.
The team has until March 8th to negotiate a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on one of their defensive captains. If that deadline passes and Bates isn’t under contract, he should be expected to enter free agency and entertain offers from other teams starting March 14th when the legal tampering period ensues.
No one in Cincinnati wants that to happen, including Bates, who said he “absolutely” wants to remain with the Bengals in an appearance on NFL Network Wednesday afternoon, but obviously wouldn’t want to be tagged in order for that to happen.
“We will see. Hopefully I am not under a franchise tag,” Bates said. “That’s something that needs to be discussed [within the] NFLPA. Some of the top guys got hurt under a franchise tag. It’s tough. You only get one shot at this. You just gotta play your cards right.”
Bates is recognized as one of NFL’s likely candidates for the tag, but it should be a last resort option to retain him. The Bengals have used the tag just twice in the last 10 years, with A.J. Green in 2020 being the last occurrence.
If Bates gets the tag, there’s still a chance Cincinnati signs him long-term. They’ll have until July 15th to make that happen or else Bates will have to play under the one-year deal and enter free agency in 2023.
The best option is if both sides agree to a deal before exercising the tag becomes necessary to keep him out of free agency. Bates wants to get paid, but resetting the safety market isn’t what he claims to be important.
“I’m not too worried about being the highest paid safety,” Bates said. “But, I do know value over cost and I think that is something that we are going to continue to evaluate.”
Bates’ comments come less than 24 hours after the veteran posted the ever ambiguous eye emoji on Twitter and retweeting teammate Mike Hilton’s continued endorsement for the team to extend him. It’s possible that Bates’ representation and the team are making progress towards a new deal, but nothing is reportable just yet.
Whatever the case may be, Bates’ remarks aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but they are pleasing to hear for Bengals fans.