By 4 PM today, any player who has received the franchise tag must sign an extension or else play on that one-year deal this season. Deadlines do spur action but based on all current reporting, it’s doubtful any tagged player receives a long-term deal. For Steelers’ purposes, the most notable name is Cincinnati Bengals’ FS Jessie Bates. The reporting has been consistent on him for weeks. Off the heels of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pay day that made him the highest paid safety in football, Bates and the Bengals won’t strike a multi-year deal. NFL.com reports Bates wants to become the new highest-paid safety in the league.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Bates and other tagged players aren’t close to reaching a new contract. Other tagged players include Cowboys’ TE Dalton Schultz and Dolphins’ TE Mike Gesicki and Chiefs’ OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Bates’ long-term future with the team appeared in doubt after the team stockpiled its secondary in the draft, including spending a first round pick on Michigan NCB/FS Daxton Hill. Fitzpatrick’s mega-extension put the nail in the coffin, making 2022 likely Bates’ final season with the team. In 2021, Bates recorded 88 tackles and an interception, though he shined in the playoffs with two interceptions. He’s been a good safety but lacked consistency, especially as a tackler, to push him into the Tier 1 club of Fitzpatrick, Denver’s Justin Simmons, and Tennessee’s Kevin Byard.
If a deal gets done with anyone today, it will be with Brown, traded over from Baltimore to Kansas City prior to last season.
The Steelers, of course, have no players on the franchise tag this year. There was never even a real candidate to consider this offseason. 2022 could be a different story. Should no long-term deal be reached with WR Diontae Johnson, he could be in prime position to get tagged by Pittsburgh next offseason. Johnson is a talented receiver in a hot receiver market and the Steelers may not be in a position to pay him now or let him walk free later. Of course, so much can change from now until then and the conversation with Johnson or another player may be completely different seven months from now.