Jessie Bates is the cornerstone of the Bengals’ defense. This is something you can gather just by listening to his teammates and their outspoken support for him and his financial demands.
If the Super Bowl run was impressive, it was largely because of the defense playing out of its mind. And that playmaking defense was headed by Bates, who had:
- multiple pass breakups against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card game
- an interception of Ryan Tannehill on his very first pass that rattled the Tennessee Titans quarterback in the divisional round
- a clutch tipped pass that resulted in Vonn Bell intercepting Patrick Mahomes in overtime of a thrilling AFC Championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs
- a pick of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in the endzone at the end of the first half that kept the Super Bowl close until the very end
Sadly, though, Bates is still holding out for a long-term deal. This is believed to be because of the great disparity between what the Bengals’ front office is offering (perhaps in terms of average salary but definitely in terms of guaranteed money) and what he believes he deserves.
But here’s the question if you’re Bates: Do you stay the course and continue to demand the type of deal that your shrewd agent, David Mulugheta, promises you’ll get, or, do you decide to settle for a team-friendly deal to remain Joe Burrow and a group of players with whom you had a great run just four months ago?
Well, we asked none other than the Bengals’ free safety the previous time they went to the Super Bowl, Solomon Wilcots. Here’s what he had to say:
I think they should be able to meet somewhere in the middle, but this is his first big contract... I would get my money... I would want the bag of money, because that’s why we do this, and until you have that kind of security, I don’t know that you trade it in for trinkets. I’m not saying that a Super Bowl ring is a trinket or that it’s not meaningful, because it’s those memories that really matter. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t help you take care of your family or send your kids to college. I think financial security is the American way. It always has been. So I’m okay with that.
You can watch our interview below:
We also asked Wilcots who the real Bates is, the player we saw in 2020 and the 2022 postseason, or something in between that and what we saw in the 2021 regular season? Here’s what he said:
The real Jessie Bates is a playmaker. He is a ball hawk, a guy that was mentored by one of the greatest defensive backs and safeties this league has ever seen, my good friend Rod Woodson, who hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana and went to the same high school as one Jessie Bates. Did you know that every week Jessie Bates would have a conversation with Rod Woodson, who is third all time with 71 career interceptions, having played corner and safety in the National Football League. The playmaking that we see from Jessie, I think, is a byproduct of the people he talks to on a daily basis and the way that he trains and approaches the game.
Relive Bates’ best moments from last year in the video below:
College: Wake Forest
Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN
Experience: five years
It’s complicated. The Bengals placed a franchise tag on Bates that would pay him $12.91 million this season. But he has held firm to his stance that he will not play on the tag.
Bates has had a bit of an up-and-down career. He had a very good rookie season (by rookie standards), then didn’t take a big step forward his second year. Year three, in 2020, was when he really shined, earning a 90.1 grade from Pro Football Focus and looking like the best
If Bates plays on a long-term deal, I expect him to take a step forward in terms of consistency. Not only because he continues to develop but also because he is surrounded by far more talent in the form of rookies Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt, whose speed and athleticism will mean Bates won’t have to shoulder as much responsibility and will be freed up to do what he does best: patrol the field and outsmart quarterbacks.
If, however, he agrees to play on the franchise tag, he will definitely be unhappy and, like last year, perhaps a bit hesitant in his approach to the game so as to avoid an injury that could cost him millions of dollars.
It pains me to type this, but there’s about a 75% chance he plays for the Bengals this year. This is because he knows his options and doesn’t really need to risk losing tens of millions of dollars by playing on a one-year deal.
Bates is still very young (only 25), and, should he sit out the season, some other team will offer him at least as much as the Bengals are offering right now. His stock will not decline. This is not a Le’Veon Bell situation. Bell was a 26-year-old running back coming off a season in which he was suspended the first three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. And the year before that, he suffered a torn MCL. Not exactly the kind of clean bill of health and character you want to hear before paying a running back approaching the age in which they rapidly decline. Even worse, Bell was essentially asking to be paid more than market value for the top players at his position.
Bates’ play, meanwhile, isn’t expected to decline. And he’s an outstanding person and leader. Wherever you stand on his talent level, he is clearly a top ten player at his position, and he was amazing when it mattered most (in the playoffs), demonstrating he has the talent and athleticism to be elite. Further, as the league becomes increasingly reliant upon passing yards, a patrolman like Bates will only become more valuable.
Hopefully, there will be a breakthrough in negotiations and Bates will be in stripes long term. If, however, neither side budges by July 15, there is still a chance we have seen the last of the outstanding free safety in Cincinnati.
You can also listen to the interview with Solomon Wilcots on iTunes or using the player below:
Where do you stand on the Jessie Bates situation?
This poll is closed
Give him what he wants (within reason)
I’d rather see him walk than pay him like an elite safety