I came to a sudden and stunning realization today that the Pittsburgh Steelers not only are not the only team in the league, but they’re also not the only team with players, and players who have contracts, some of which are expiring. Some of those players with expiring contracts are even expiring, and for some players on some teams, it may even be difficult for them to work out a new deal.
Take the defending AFC champions, the Cincinnati Bengals. They won their first playoff games in three decades, advancing all the way to the Super Bowl. While they came up short, they showed themselves to be contenders, perhaps for many years to come.
But they still have to deal with the annual roster hoops everyone else has to jump through. They have about a dozen and a half players who are going to be unrestricted free agents next month, and that includes many significant players like C.J. Uzomah, Larry Ogunjobi, and B.J. Hill. But none are more important than Jessie Bates III.
One of the better young free safeties over the past four years, Bates was taken in the second round in 2018. Though his play suffered a bit this past year, he was still a major part of why their defense worked as well as it did, and he should certainly be a priority to re-sign.
The ‘good’ news, if you like the Bengals that is, is that it seems that’s very much what the Bengals intend to do this offseason, and that should come as no surprise. “I think everyone knows we want Jessie to be a part of this”, head coach Zac Taylor said this week. “We’ll just continue to work through those discussions”.
Bates wanted to get a contract extension done back in August before the regular season started, as is very common with virtually every team in the league when it comes to established starters in the final year of their contract (especially rookie contracts). He wasn’t thrilled about it not getting done, and wondered what that meant.
“I think as far as my contract goes, I guess I haven’t done enough yet to be considered one of the top safeties in the league, which is fine”, he said back in August when asked about his contract status. A month later, into the season already, he acknowledged that he was playing “a little pissed off”, as a reflection of his contract status.
Over the course of his four-year career, Bates has recorded 408 tackles with 10 interceptions, 35 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. He somehow has yet to make it to a Pro Bowl, but I imagine that one is coming. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2020 with 109 tackles, three interceptions, and 15 passes defensed.