Jessie Bates III is unquestionably one of the top players for the Cincinnati Bengals. Pro Football Focus ranked Bates as the top safety in the NFL for 2020. This is the last season of Bates’ rookie contract, and he will be a free agent next season. The Bengals signing Bates to a long-term contract would seem like an easy decision, but that has come into question recently. While Bates has stated he wants to sign with the Bengals, this past Thursday he publicly complained that the Bengals were not treating him as a top safety in the league. Here is a breakdown of Jessie Bates’ contract negotiations with the Bengals.
Jessie Bates’ Contract Negotiations With the Cincinnati Bengals Needs To Continue
Bates was drafted by the Bengals in 2018, and he made an immediate impact. Drafted in the second round out of Wake Forest, Bates was named the starter before the first game of the season. Bates showed enough to allow the Bengals to cut George Iloka right away. He finished his rookie season ranked as the 11th best safety in the league by Pro Football Focus. His next two seasons were just as strong, and he has grown to being ranked as the best safety in the NFL.
Bates Wants To Stay in Cincinnati
As recently as July 29 of this year, Bates stated he was ready to sign an extension with the Bengals. In an article by James Rapien from SI.com, Bates was quoted as saying, “I’m super eager to get a deal done. Obviously, I want to be here.” He followed that up with, “I think it’s really cool to see guys get drafted here, play well, and then get rewarded for it.” These are not the words of a player who is ready to leave the Bengals.
Bates’ More Recent Comments
In a press conference this past Thursday, the demeanor of Bates changed. Bates said, “I guess I haven’t done enough yet to be considered one of the top safeties in this league. I think this will probably be my last time that I speak on the contract just because I think it can get a little messy as far as thinking about it too much.” This set off a firestorm of complaints from Bengals fans on social media. Is this another case of the Bengals not being able to keep talented players such as Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, William Jackson III, and Carl Lawson?
The Truth of Negotiations
However, Bates has not stated that he wishes to leave the Bengals. Contract negotiations are not being handled by Bates directly. His agent is working with the organization to get the best possible long-term deal for Bates. His recent comments are just part of the ongoing negotiations. The Bengals and Bates will likely reach an agreement once the safety contract market is set by Jamal Adams and the Seattle Seahawks. But what happens if they can’t reach an agreement?
Would the Bengals Let Bates Leave?
If a contract extension can’t be reached, it doesn’t mean the Bengals will just let the talented safety walk away. The Bengals can place the franchise tag on Bates. This means the Bengals have to pay Bates the average of the top five paid safeties in the NFL for that season. Currently, the salaries of the top five paid safeties range between $14 million and $14.75 million per year. Assuming Bates then signs the franchise tender, the Bengals could also place the tag on him the following season.
Should Bengals Fans Be Worried?
This process would be much easier for the Bengals if Bates would not publicly discuss the contract negotiations. But Bates is just following what his agent is telling him to say. There is little doubt the Bengals want Bates to be with the team for the long term. But the price has to be agreed to. The Bengals still have the power to keep Bates around with the franchise tag, but Bates and his agent will work to avoid risking injury in a tagged season just to get to eventual free agency. The Jessie Bates’ contract negotiations need to continue until the two sides agree to a long-term deal. Look for a long-term agreement to be signed before the beginning of the 2021 regular season.