The Cincinnati Bengals placed the franchise tag on their starting safety from their Super Bowl run this offseason, but so far, Jessie Bates III has yet to sign the offer worth $12.9 million. An ideal alternative for Bates and the Bengals would be to work out a long-term extension, keeping one of their team captains around for years to come.
But the clock’s ticking, as teams have until 4 PM ET on Friday to negotiate contract extensions with franchise-tagged players.
As Josina Anderson tells it, Bates ‘has no intentions‘ of reporting to training camp or playing on the franchise tag in 2022. What does that mean for Bates and the Bengals with training camp less than two weeks away?
What happens next for Jessie Bates?
If he’s serious about not playing under the $12.91 million franchise tender and refuses to report to camp, Jessie Bates could be looking at sitting out the season unless a deal can be struck before today’s 4 PM ET deadline.
Should Bates sit out for all of 2022-23 and the Bengals tag him again next offseason, he would earn $15.493 million. Or if a team wished to sign him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, they’d owe the Bengals a first-round pick plus a third-round pick instead of two first-round picks if a team had done the same this past offseason.
Ian Rapoport notes the Bengals have already made their final offer, which was for a total of $4 million more than his franchise tag guaranteed. Though, the contract Bates turned down was a five-year deal. We don’t have any other details about their negotiations thus far.
Bates is 25, has tallied 100+ tackles in three of his four seasons, and has started all 63 games he’s appeared in. Though Pro Football Focus graded him poorly for his effort throughout the regular season, finishing with a 56.1 player grade in 2021, Bates intercepted two passes last postseason to help the Bengals reach the final stage. Bates was elite in 2020, achieving a 90.1 player grade.
As mentioned, he’s a team captain, he doesn’t miss time, and for the most part, he’s been consistent. Why the Bengals wouldn’t want to commit more money to a big-time contributor to a defense that helped them reach the Super Bowl is borderline absurd. They know they’ll have to commit big money long-term to retain Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and several others, but there’s always the option to front-load the contract, saving more money for later when the salary cap continues to skyrocket.
Bengals have a backup for Bates
One factor that could be preventing the Bengals from moving land and water to retain their safety was their decision to draft safety Daxton Hill in the first round of April’s draft. Or maybe the Bengals are just being cheap.
Their other projected starting safety is Vonn Bell, who’s 27 and has been with the team for two seasons. Bell is entering the final year of a three-year, $18 million contract he signed before the 2020 season began. It’s quite possible the team envisioned Hill eventually taking over for Bell at the start of 2023, but depending on how their dealings with Bates go, the rookie may be called upon much more than they imagined in his first year.
The Bengals will soon embark on their next journey, hoping to prove their 10-7 first-place finish in the AFC North wasn’t a fluke. But for now, it appears they may have to defend their AFC Conference Championship title without one of their top contributors.