The Cincinnati Bengals have long been seen as cheap. They should reset their reputation and pay big money to safety Jessie Bates.
Jessie Bates wants to get paid. The Cincinnati Bengals should give him the big check.
Bates, 24, is at the end of his rookie contract. The former Wake Forest star came to Cincinnati in 2018 as a second-round pick and has blossomed into one of the best safeties in football, only missing two games in his career. While Bates has yet to reach the Pro Bowl — he has been a Second-Team All-Pro — he’s clearly on that level, ascending towards the level of the AFC’s elite including Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs, Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos and more.
Now, with free agency looming for Bates, he’s looking to cash in. And on Wednesday, he went on NFL Now and talked about what he hopes to see in the coming days and weeks. Per NFL.com:
“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.”
Last season, Bates played 15 games and notched an interception with 88 tackles. In each of the three prior seasons, Bates had a trio of picks and more than 100 tackles.
Looking at the safety contracts for elite players, Bates is going to likely command something around $16 million per year. If Cincinnati is serious about being a sustained winner in the Queen City, it’ll start by paying stars from within and then adding aggressively on the open market with its more than $49 million in cap space.
For decades, Cincinnati has long been known as one of the cheapest franchises in football. To start turning around those optics, the Bengals should pay big for one of their own, and then get ready to win a few bidding wars in the coming month.