Jessie Bates has finally returned to the Bengals following dramatic holdout

Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates is back in the building after missing training camp and the team’s preseason games, allowing fans to breathe out a long sigh of relief.

There was the inkling of a chance Bates would sit out the entire season at the risk of ruining his career and making it more difficult for the star safety to find a new team next year.

Instead, Bates signed his roughly $12 million franchise tender on Tuesday and will play for Cincinnati for the 2022 season.

Bates’ contract negotiations reached a stalemate this offseason as the Bengals remained unwilling to pay Bates top-of-the-market money. The fifth-year safety made it clear he wanted a hefty long-term contract extension, but the two sides failed to get a deal done in time. Earlier this summer Bates skipped team OTAs and mandatory minicamp, so it was to be expected that Bates would miss the majority of training camp as well.

Now that Bates has signed his franchise tag, he will be subject to monetary fines, and fans should see much more of the safety in the next few weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals’ Jessie Bates remains disgruntled but will play in 2022

Despite staging a holdout, Bates was spotted at the Bengals’ preseason opener against the Cardinals, which suggests he’s still committed to the team… for now.

Quarterback Joe Burrow has spoken highly of Bates in the past, and he along with the rest of the team are prepared to welcome Bates back “with open arms.” Bates’ return gives the Bengals around three weeks to get the secondary up to speed before the start of the season, and it’ll be especially interesting to see how the team uses both Bates and rookie Dax Hill in the backfield.

Hill has been enjoying a superb preseason and could develop into Bates’ potential starting-caliber replacement, should Bates walk next year.

Given how much his contract negotiations have soured and given how many other players the Bengals have to extend in the future (Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, for two), Bates will likely be on the prowl for a new team in 2023.

Though he has yet to earn an All-Pro or Pro Bowl honor, Bates showed up big time for Cincy in the 2021 postseason when he recorded six pass deflections, 20 tackles, and two picks. This upcoming season could serve as more of a showcase for Bates to prove to the Bengals (and any interested team) that he deserves to be paid like one of the best safeties in the league.

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There’s no question Bates was the team’s most productive defender in the playoffs last year. Yet he’s entering 2022 on very undesirable terms, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this season is his last in Cincinnati.