For the first time in his career, Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III will enter free agency next month in search for his first major payday. And it’s looking like he’ll find what he’s looking for outside of Cincinnati.
Per The Athletic’s Jay Morrison, Bates leaving for another team is considered an inevitability.
Jessie Bates is as good as gone after playing 2022 on the franchise tag. He’ll get a big contract elsewhere. The Bengals will do everything possible to bring back Vonn Bell, who also is a free agent.
The Bengals put this off for a year by placing the franchise tag on Bates in 2022. Both sides had attempted to reach an extension since the 2021 offseason, but an agreement couldn’t be accomplished. Once the tag was placed on Bates, the assumption became he would leave the following year.
As the top safety hitting the open market, Bates has a good chance of becoming the first player at his position to eclipse the $20 million per year mark and $40 million fully guaranteed, both of which would surpass Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James. The Bengals’ reported final offer to Bates included roughly $17 million in guaranteed money.
Bates’ newfound leverage will get him an offer he likely never received in Cincinnati. While his departure would be a negative for the Bengals, the team is prepared to insert 2022 first-round pick Dax Hill as Bates’ replacement going forward. And as Morrison mentioned in the report, the chances of Vonn Bell returning should increase once Bates leaves.
NFL free agency officially begins on March 15th, with legal tampering opening on the 13th. Expect Bates to land a deal closer to that date.