When the Cincinnati Bengals placed the franchise tag on star safety Jessie Bates III, they bought themselves four more months to agree on a contract extension.
July 15th is the new deadline for both sides to come to terms on a long-term contract. If no deal is reached, then Bates will either have to sign his franchise tag tender of $12.9 million or begin to holdout, which would costs Bates plenty in fines.
It’s in the best interest of both parties to reach an extension, but what would that realistically look like? Anthony Holzman-Escareno of NFL.com gave his projection in a recent article, accounting for Cincinnati’s traditional contract methodology.
The Bengals typically only guarantee a player’s signing bonus in their contracts (and, at times, a first-year roster bonus for cap purposes). However, Bates is repped by David Mulugheta and Athletes First, who just got Deshaun Watson the most guaranteed money in NFL history. This projection is based on previous guarantees given out by the Bengals.
BATES’ PROJECTED CONTRACT: Five years, $80 million ($16.0 million APY), with $30 million fully guaranteed.
As expected, Bates would get a sizable deal. An $80 million figure would become the highest total value for a safety contract, but the AAV of $16 million would match Harrison Smith for the second-highest in the league.
The most important aspect is the fully guaranteed amount, which would be made up of the signing bonus and the year one roster bonus that would become guaranteed shortly after the deal is signed. $30 million is a lot for the Bengals, plain and simple. D.J. Reader got about $20 million back in 2020. A.J. Green received about $26 million in 2015. The organization typically doesn’t go higher than that. A deal for Bates would likely break that barrier.
Holzman-Escareno astutely notes that Bates’ agent, David Mulugheta, is a factor here. Mulugheta is one of the top agents at securing guaranteed money, as seen with the Deshaun Watson contract. Mulugheta also negotiated contracts for defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and Budda Baker, both of whom received over $30 million in guaranteed money.
Mulugheta might be the biggest obstacle for the Bengals to overcome in securing Bates for the long-term, but their unwillingness to alter their contract structures is a self-imposed obstacle as well. They’ll have to evolve if they want to keep both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in town.
Will Bates be the guy who makes them change? Probably not, but it will be interesting to see it all play out.