As the Cincinnati Bengals have added players from outside the organization this spring, one very important piece to their postseason puzzle from 2021 is still surrounded by question marks.
They opted to use the franchise tag on fourth-year safety Jessie Bates III to keep control of his contract rights for at least another season, but the topic of a long-term deal remains in question.
Bates has been on record saying he doesn’t have to be the highest paid safety in the league and has stated desire to stay in Cincinnati, but no agreement has been reached. Using the franchise tag shows the Bengals value Bates, but players look at the tag a bit differently. In a sport where injury is a very real possibility on each play, players tend to want long-term security more than they want a one season cash grab.
At the NFL Owners Meetings, Katie Blackburn spoke to the Cincinnati Enquirer about contract talks with Bates.
When asked if the team would prefer to get an extension done so Bates doesn’t have to play on the franchise tag, Blackburn said it’s not much different than how the team viewed the situation with Bates heading into last season.
“I don’t view it that different from last year,” Blackburn said. “We would have loved to get something done but if not we hope that he would play and be a great part of the team and we would be happy to have him as part of the team either way.
We are seeing a similar situation play out as we saw last offseason, as Bates was entering the final year of his contract. Players, fans and media members banged the table to get a deal done, but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement. As the negotiations played out last year, we saw defensive end Sam Hubbard get his long-term contract.
It is worth noting that Bates’ agent, David Mulugheta also represents embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who just got a record-setting $230 million contract with the most guaranteed money in league history. Mulugheta hasn’t been shy about the money he landed Watson, so he may be out for another historic payday for Bates.
Another Bengal who will be in contract negotiations soon, Tee Higgins is also represented by Mulugheta, so it will be interesting to see if these negotiations impact the relationship between him and the Bengals going forward.
With new contracts for Higgins and Joe Burrow on the horizon, the Bengals are going to be very careful with how deals are structured between now and then.
Hopefully, it all plays out and an extension is completed long before the July 15th deadline. After then, Bates can only play under the franchise tag, at about $13 million for this season. An option we may not like, but is real also remains - Bates could opt to sit out the 2022 season and hope to test the open market in 2023.
Who Dey Nation certainly hopes to see him in stripes for the long haul.