It’s official. The Cincinnati Bengals have announced safety Jessie Bates is designated to be this year’s franchise tag player.
Now, we have comments from the team on the decision to tag Bates in hopes of a long-term deal getting ironed out soon.
“Jessie has been an important part of this organization both on the field and in the locker room,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor in a press release. “I’m excited about the opportunity for Jessie to be with us again this year as we continue to improve our team.”
“Jessie has been an outstanding player here for four years,” said Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn in a press release. “Over the past year, we’ve tried to extend his contract here in Cincinnati, and while that hasn’t come to pass, we want him here for 2022 to be a part of what we think should be an exciting football season and bright future for our organization.”
The Cincinnati Bengals have placed the franchise tag on free safety Jessie Bates III.
Per ESPN NFL insider Dan Graziano, Bates, who was scheduled to become a free agent next week, will be under contract with the Bengals for at least one more year.
At 25 years of age, Bates is entering his fifth season in Cincinnati after being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s been a full-time starter during his first four years and has missed just one possible game due to injury this past year.
Per source, Bengals used the franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 7, 2022
In 67 career starts (including playoffs), Bates has recorded 428 total tackles, 41 passes defensed, 12 interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
After displaying promise as a rookie in 2018 and hitting a sophomore slump in 2019, Bates elevated his play in 2020 and received All-Pro 2nd Team honors. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded safety for that season and was widely considered a Pro Bowl snub.
An extension for Bates seemed inevitable following his outstanding third season, but talks between the team and Bates’ representation stalled a month before the 2021 season began. When asked about the negotiations, Bates went as far to say “I guess I haven’t done enough yet to be considered one of the top safeties in this league,” in an interview with Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham.
Sure enough, Bates was set to play in a contract year, and he did not play like his 2020 self. He finished the regular season with just two passes defensed, one interception, and a passer rating allowed of 135. PFF graded him above 70 for just three of his 15 games. Bates said during the team’s bye week that his mind “was on other things throughout the first part of the season,” alluding to his contract situation.
Bates played better down the stretch as Cincinnati clinched an AFC North title, but it was during the playoffs when he truly found himself again. Bates was the team’s highest-graded defender during their run to the Super Bowl as he came away with three passes defensed and two interceptions, including one in the Super Bowl.
Bates re-established himself as one of the NFL’s best safeties at exactly the right time, and he will now be paid as such, albeit with no security beyond this year as of yet. The expected franchise tag price for safeties is about $13 million, so that will be Bates’ approximate salary and cap hit for the upcoming season.
The Bengals now have until July 15th—about four months—to continue negotiations with Bates before he’s locked in for the 2022 season under the tag.