With the Cincinnati Bengals set to lose Jessie Bates in NFL free agency, the Atlanta Falcons have gotten the early buzz to sign arguably the top defensive back hitting the open market.
However, don’t sleep on the Cleveland Browns, who also have a big need at safety with the impending release of starter John Johnson III.
According to Cleveland.com reporter Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns are set to make a run at Bates when free agency begins.
The Browns are expected to pursue Bates if he’s not extended, franchised or traded to someone besides the Browns. A 2020 second-team All-Pro, Bates would likely average more than $14 million a year in a new deal, but he’s the caliber of impact safety the Browns are seeking to replace Johnson.
On the surface, it looks very challenging for the Browns to make a serious offer for Bates. Per Over The Cap, the Browns are currently $13+ million over the cap limit, so they’ve got to great creative just to get back under it.
Of course, anyone who follows the NFL knows how easy it can be to free up money through roster cuts, restructuring contracts, etc. While it will take some work, there’s likely a scenario where the Browns free up enough cap space to make a serious run at Bates.
And we can’t forget that Bates shares the same agent as Browns QB Deshaun Watson in David Mulugheta, so there’s already a significant connection. Tee Higgins is also represented by Mulugheta, and you know the Browns would love to poach some of the Bengals’ best players away after watching their in-state rivals become one of the NFL’s top teams over the past two years and likely for the foreseeable future.
While other teams like the Falcons will make a run, the Browns would offer a much better chance to compete with a Super Bowl, especially since Bates would be in a defense that has the potential to wreak havoc with Myles Garrett up front and Jim Schwartz being a significant upgrade as the defensive play-caller.
Expect the Browns to be one of Bates’ top suitors when free agency opens.