Bengals defense could benefit from potential Jessie Bates trade

Feb 7, 2022; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) walks onto the field during the Super Bowl Opening Night Fan Rally at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 7, 2022; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) walks onto the field during the Super Bowl Opening Night Fan Rally at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history and now face some difficult decisions in free agency. The team turned a bottom-five defensive unit into one of their biggest strengths and many feel that Jessie Bates‘ leadership was a huge part of this turnaround.

Bates remains the team’s biggest question mark this offseason after he declared he wouldn’t play without a long-term contract. The Bengals have until July 15 to commit to keeping Bates on the roster.

The Bengals opted to select Daxton Hill with their first-round pick in 2022 which could be an indicator that Bates is on the way out. The safety out of Michigan is an exciting prospect and will be a versatile asset to Lou Anoroumo’s defense.

Cincinnati currently has one of the best safety duos in the league with Bates and Vonn Bell but both players have expiring contracts after the season. Daxton Hill can make an impact right away even with both players on the field but it’s likely Jessie Bates is not here to stay.

The former second-round pick used to be one of the best safeties in the league but he’s coming off the worst season of his career. Bates had significantly fewer pass breakups, interceptions, and tackles than any of his first three seasons and his PFF rating reflected this.

Following a stellar season where Bates was the top-rated safety in the league, the Bengals captain dropped to an abysmal 56.2 rating this season. That is the worst rating among the entire Bengals secondary, including Eli Apple. He has not earned a long-term contract yet the former second-round pick says he won’t play on the franchise tag.

The Bengals should pursue trade options for Bates as soon as possible. The 25-year-old safety is expected to receive over $36 million in guaranteed money, according to Bleacher Report. He wants to be paid among the best safeties in the league even though he didn’t perform up to par in a contract year.

Trading Jessie Bates might be best for Bengals

Many people wrongly assume that Jessie Bates was the anchor behind the Bengals defensive firepower this past season and therefore trading him would tear apart the progress made by this unit. The truth is the Bengals’ massive improvement on the defensive line was the reason for the team’s leap this season. Bates’ leadership will be missed in the locker room but his on-field play left little to be desired. Daxton Hill can and will be a massive upgrade.

Hill was a top prospect since his high school days at Booker T. Washington High School. He was rated as the top safety prospect in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Oklahoma before committing to Michigan.

Hill tested as a much more athletic prospect than Bates and had a much more successful college career in Ann Arbor. What’s more impressive is that Hill earned academic honors in 2021 while also leading the Wolverine’s secondary every Saturday. He is a fine young man and a prepared leader who will start on this defense in 2022

The Bengals should pursue trade options for Bates as soon as possible. He wants to be paid among the best safeties in the league even though he didn’t back it up with his performance this season and that’s why he should be sent elsewhere if that’s what he wants.

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