What Does The Future Hold For The Bengals’ Star Safety In 2022?

June 6, 2022

The former 2nd-round pick Jessie Bates has yet to attend OTA’s for the Cincinnati Bengals and doesn’t plan to do so anytime soon. He has made it explicitly clear that he doesn’t intend on playing under the franchise tag, which is worth upwards of $13 million but only throughout this upcoming season.

Bates was looking for a long-term deal worth around $15-16 million yearly with guaranteed money and incentives. Unfortunately, the Bengals don’t have the luxury of dishing out that type of money when players like Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson become eligible for extensions after this season. So instead, they have to find where their priorities lie. There is no question Bates is worth the money he desires, but that might not be in Cincinnati.

In four seasons, Bates has appeared in 63 games and has logged ten interceptions, one touchdown, and 408 combined tackles, and in his first playoff appearance had two critical interceptions and made countless plays that led to a Bengals Super Bowl run. His importance to Cincinnati is on full display week after week.

The Bengals didn’t shy away from the position either in the NFL Draft; in the first round, they selected safety Daxton Hill out of Michigan. Then, in the 2nd round, they took cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt from Nebraska.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the focus is to move on from Jessie Bates, but it does raise a few red flags. Cincinnati doesn’t have a single safety under contract next year besides their new draft selections. (Dax Hill, Tycen Anderson) Both Bates and Vonn Bell will hit the market in the same offseason, which will make it extremely hard to maintain both.

Does Re-Signing Jessie Bates Make Sense Financially For The Bengals?

Duke Tobin and Katie Blackburn need to distribute their cap space very precisely if they want to maintain core guys like Burrow, Higgins, Wilson, and Chase in two years, and that will require financial management from now until all of them hit the market.

If you sign Bates to a long-term deal and make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league now, it will be very tough to work out a deal with players like Logan Wilson or Tee Higgins next year or the year after.

Expect the Bengals to do everything they can to retain Burrow and Chase. It would be hard to imagine a scenario where they don’t pay them or free up the money to give them exactly what they desire.

Potential Trade Suitors

Now, Cincinnati has other options, including potentially trading the star safety, but there are many different aspects to consider when and if this becomes an option.

First, you need to find suitors that have that positional need. Second, and most importantly, you need to find a trade suitor who can afford to pay Bates what he envisions throughout 4-5 seasons.

Some teams that can afford Jessie Bates and could look to strike a deal include the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, and perhaps the Green Bay Packers. Nobody except Duke Tobin and the Bengals front office knows the anticipation for Bates moving forward. A lot could depend if he shows up to training camp or not.

The current situation as of 6/6/2022

Jessie Bates is one of two players who are yet to attend camp (Trey Hendrickson), but with Hendrickson, there is no financial dispute or any dispute at all; he just is yet to attend, which is the great thing about OTA’s. It is optional, so it doesn’t warrant anything excessive yet, but as training camp rolls around and Bates is still sold on not playing under the franchise tag, then a trade could become more plausible and viable in both the Bengals’ and Bates eyes.

One thing we know is that his teammates, specifically Mike Hilton, really want the team to extend and re-sign Jessie Bates and have been tweeting about it often this off-season.

When losing a player like Jessie Bates, you don’t just lose the pure and natural talent he brings to the table. His IQ, mixed with his leadership, makes him the QB of the defense in a sense. He may not call the plays as a linebacker does, but he has the eyes as the safety is on the backend of the defense.

Players with the IQ of Bates don’t come around often. We are yet to see what Daxton Hill brings to the table and who could end up being his replacement, but he has enormous shoes to fill as a rookie if the former Wake Forest Deacon isn’t on the field in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Over the next few weeks to months, this should all unfold to benefit both sides; however, if for some reason he doesn’t return to the Bengals and Tobin refuses to shop him on the trade market, they could find themselves in an odd scenario where Bates decides to sit out the year.