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Jessie Bates has dinner with Falcons players

Let the unofficial courting begin.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

The most sought-after Cincinnati Bengals free agent is likely to be safety Jessie Bates III. And one team may already be putting in the work (without actually putting in the work) in terms of courting him.

Bates recently had dinner with his agent, David Mulugheta, along with A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, and Kyle Pitts, all current Atlanta Falcons players who are represented by Mulugheta.

NFL free agency, and the legal tampering period preceding the new league year, doesn’t officially begin until next month. That said, there’s nothing in the rules that says an agent can’t have dinner with multiple clients at the same time.

Bates, who turns 26 this weekend, is entering his sixth year in the NFL. He is all but confirmed to hit the open market for the first time in his career, and he’s eyeing a big-time payday. It’s why he and the Bengals couldn’t agree upon a deal at any point in the last two years.

The Falcons are just one of many suitors who are capable of backing up the Brinks truck for Bates (and Mulugheta for that matter), but it doesn’t hurt that Bates is developing—or reaffirming—relationships with current players on a potential new team. Atlanta will be a team to watch once Bates starts mulling over offers next month.