Star safety Jessie Bates played a crucial part in the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl run last year, but he’s not anywhere close to being the team’s “most important” player.
Franchise quarterback Joe Burrow obviously takes home the honor of being the team’s most esteemed VIP as he helped the Bengals skyrocket to relevance this past season. After Burrow, several Bengals players follow in order of importance: Ja’Marr Chase, Logan Wilson, Trey Hendrickson, the retooled offensive line, and no, Jessie Bates probably wouldn’t even crack the top five.
Burrow himself spoke of Bates’ importance earlier this summer claiming that it was impossible to put a price tag on what Bates does in the locker room. That very well may be true, yet Bates’ overall “importance” should be a reflection of both his on-field and off-field character, and his on-field talent pales in comparison to that of other elite safeties and that of other Bengals players.
James Palmer recently went on Good Morning Football and declared that Bates is the most important person on the Bengals after Burrow which is…a bit shocking, to say the least.
"“I think Jessie Bates is the most important person to the Cincinnati Bengals after Joe Burrow. They change so much of what they do defensively throughout the week, from week to week, but also throughout the game. What’s the biggest part of that? It’s how you communicate on the field. He’s the guy who sees everything, is the unquestioned leader of this defense.”"
Cincinnati Bengals’ Jessie Bates gets hailed as the team VIP after Joe Burrow
Bates put together four very productive seasons in Cincinnati with ten interceptions, not including the two he recorded in the 2021 playoffs, and played roughly 85 percent of defensive snaps as well as a handful of special teams snaps.
There’s not even an inkling of doubt that Bates is an elite member of the backfield, and he may indeed lead the team in ways that outsiders can’t see.
But being the “most important” player on the team means that if you were take Bates out of the equation, the team would struggle and may not recover. Subtract Joe Burrow, and the Bengals suddenly lose their chances of making the postseason, much less winning the Super Bowl.
If Bates hypothetically left or got traded, Cincinnati’s defense would suffer a slight regression but not much with a solid secondary unit of Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie, and Vonn Bell. Those three combined for five interceptions total and started every game they played in 2021 — the Bengals’ defensive foundation appears to be stable with Bates in the lineup, but it could reasonably hold without him, too.
We’d label Bates with a different superlative instead of “most important:” most likely to leave the team after the 2022 season. The Bengals have to pick their battles, and Bates just isn’t worth the fight.