3. Jessie Bates ($12.9 million cap hit)
Jessie Bates is playing on the franchise tag, and this is the value for safeties this season. Due to playing on the tag, Bates does not have any bonuses, so this is a full $12.9 million in salary for the former second-round pick.
Enjoy him while he’s here because the drafting of Daxton Hill likely signals that Bates’ days in orange and black are numbered. The best possible outcome for the Bengals is that he produces like a stud this year in the hopes of earning a big payday on the open market in 2023.
Even though he was arguably the team’s best defensive player during the playoff run last year, it’s hard to blame the Bengals for refusing to cave to his contract demands. This is a team that historically has not paid big money to safeties, choosing to invest instead in more premium positions.
The franchise tag of $12.9M is a relative bargain for a safety; there are eight safeties earning more than Bates this year. Seattle’s Jamal Adams is the top-paid safety, earning $17.5M per year; it’s hard to see the Bengals making a comparable offer to Bates with extensions needed for Joe Burrow and Jonah Williams in the not-too-distant future.
Although all of us love the guy, Burrow and Williams are more critical pieces to the future of this franchise.