Slated to become a free agent this past offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals made sure to place the franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates III. This meant that the Bengals and only the Bengals would have the chance to negotiate a long-term contract with the 25-year-old defender without giving up two first-round draft picks as trade compensation
Yet, here we are four months later, and Bates has yet to sign the franchise tender for $12.9 million.
Until he signs, Bates technically isn’t under contract — meaning he won’t participate in offseason training activities or training camp once it opens up later this month.
For Bates, that’s perfectly fine. As NFL insider Josina Anderson reports, he has no plans to play under the one-year tag and no intention of reporting to training camp, either. Instead, Bates wants a long-term contract, giving him more financial security with a higher salary than what the Bengals are currently offering.
Here were Bates’ thoughts on the matter, dating back to February. Keep in mind, this was before the tag was placed on him.
“That’s a conversation I think that we’ll have with my agency and my team, I put a lot of trust in them with this whole process. I’m just trying to stay focused, control what I can. We’ll see. Hopefully I’m not under a franchise tag. That’s something that needs to be discussed as NFLPA a little bit. Some of the top guys got hurt under a franchise tag. It’s tough; you only get one shot at this. You just got to play your cards right, I guess you could say.”Jessie Bates on not wanting to be franchise tagged
The team has since drafted safety Daxton Hill with the 31st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and Tycen Anderson in the fifth round. While they may prefer not to trade Bates, it’s possible they can’t see eye-to-eye on his player value either, which could prompt a trade.
Here are three of the best fits for a Jessie Bates trade in 2022.
Indianapolis Colts add another piece to the secondary
The Indianapolis Colts had four different players start at safety last season. Of that group, only Julian Blackmon remains on the roster. They’ve since signed Rodney McLeod, 32, to a one-year, $1.7 million contract. After starting 13 games for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he tallied two interceptions and forced four fumbles, he’s a solid replacement. But McLeod is no Jessie Bates, as he’s just a short-term solution.
It’s not hard to envision the Colts growing attached to the idea of taking Bates off the Bengals’ hands, as they also happen to have an extra $10 million or so in cap space. The Colts likely wouldn’t include McLeod in the deal. They’d likely release him and let him pick his own team. But it’s possible he’d appeal to the Bengals too, as both teams figure to contend and are in need of safety depth.
More so, it would be about the Colts pushing more of their chips in for 2022, as they may have an extra second-round pick next season if Carson Wentz plays 70% or more snaps with the Washington Commanders this season. In this case, that second-round pick would head to Cincinnati for Bates with the idea of the Colts re-signing him long-term at the end of the season.
Washington Commanders call on Bates
Ron Rivera is very much known as a defensive specialist. Yet the Washington Commanders, with all their top draft picks invested in recent years, have been anything but special when it comes to playing D. They were particularly bad at stopping the pass, allowing the most passing touchdowns in the NFL a season ago.
One way to offset this weakness is by improving their safety play, which Bates would immediately do.
- Jessie Bates stats in 2021: 88 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PD, 1 FR
It’s true. Bates is coming off a down season with Pro Football Focus giving him a 53.4 coverage grade across 633 snaps. But the physically imposing defender made up for his pitfalls by being a solid all-around player. In his four seasons as a starter, he’s averaged out to a coverage grade of 72.3, which is far more respectable. Not to mention, Bates is among the hardest-hitting safeties around, has a high football IQ and is a team captain with the Bengals. He helped them reach the Super Bowl.
He’d be a great addition to just about every roster out there. It’s possible a trade offering a future second-round pick plus a mid-round selection could bring Bates to Washington.
Jacksonville Jaguars jump on Jessie Bates
The Jacksonville Jaguars weren’t shy about spending money to improve their roster on both sides of the ball this offseason. As Doug Pederson takes over a team that’s earned the top pick in each of the past two drafts, there’s an expectation for the team to see immediate results.
No one is anticipating a Super Bowl run out of Trevor Lawrence in his second season, but getting out of the doldrums where they see strong growth has to be a top priority.
They didn’t do much of anything right in Duval last season, and while we’ve seen roster improvements since, the secondary still needs some work. Trading for Bates may cost their second-round pick next year while having to sign him to an extension once the year concludes, but it’s a price the Jaguars shouldn’t be afraid to pay.
Bates would instantly become a leader in the secondary, adding an intimidating presence to the back end while Josh Allen and Travon Walker wreak havoc in the trenches. It’d be a fun defense to see in action.