Jessie Bates hasn’t signed his franchise tag with the Cincinnati Bengals yet was spotted at the preseason opener. What should fans make of this?
Cincinnati Bengals star safety Jessie Bates has been in a contract dispute dating back to last season, and it is just now starting to run its course. However, he was spotted at the Bengals’ preseason opener last Friday night at the newly-named Paycor Stadium.
Bates was more than likely just supporting his teammates but take it how you will. It could be a good sign that he is close to returning or, at the very least, showing that he wants to be out there with his teammates.
Jessie Bates is currently holding out of all team activities, including minicamp, training camp, and preseason. As far as we know, he has no intention of returning until his contract is resolved. Now, if Bates decides to hold out into the season, he could be roughly sacrificing a season of a $12.9 million dollar salary, which seems far-fetched.
It feels like the anticipation from the organization is that he will return to the team once preseason wraps up, along with camp, and the week one matchup versus the Steelers nears. However, spending a whole off-season away from the team could raise a few red flags to some.
Bates is still working hard. He has posted many workout clips (via his Instagram), and he looks like the same old Jessie Bates, and nobody should expect anything less. He has always been a durable, hardworking, and dedicated player.
Still, those team reps matter, even if he was with the team all of last season during the Super Bowl run. Luckily the team hasn’t changed much, if at all, outside of a few new additions.
One of those additions happens to be Daxton Hill, who plays the same position as Bates. It would be shocking to see the Bengals start Hill over Bates if he arrives and decides to play. Hill has looked very good in camp so far, but he still is very raw and has a ways to go before he is a full-time starter; unless Bates doesn’t come back, then he may have to step into a much more significant role that maybe wasn’t expected when he was drafted.
However, Jessie Bates must sign the franchise tag before anything happens. It would be a one-year deal that would make him a free agent again next season, and that is precisely what has caused the most controversy. He wants long-term stability within his deal. He wants guaranteed money and not to have to do it all over again next season, and rightfully so. He has earned that right.
The Bengals must also think about the future and figure out just how valuable Bates is to them, how to structure their deals, and how to pay all of the young stars they have hit the market. Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson become eligible this upcoming offseason and Ja’Marr Chase is eligible the following year. Those are four names right there that they more than likely prioritize over Bates just because of their position.
The best outcome for the team is that Bates comes back and plays for the team this year. There’s no question that the Bengals are a better football team when Jessie Bates is on the field and $12.9 million is not a small amount of money by any means.
Before judging Bates’ decision, make sure to put yourself in his shoes. If he were to suffer an injury and head into free agency next season, his stock would drop drastically, as would that guaranteed money a team is willing to offer him. It’s a business at the end of the day, which can be the unfortunate part for both sides.
Sometimes the team has to make a decision that favors them over the player, and sometimes the player has to make a decision that favors them over the organization. It’s just how it works.
The next few weeks will make things unfold a lot more. We’ll see where this thing heads.