It appears as though the Cincinnati Bengals will have star safety Jessie Bates III back in the fold for the Week 1 opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers after all.
According to a tweet from the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway, Bates was back in the building Tuesday morning, ending a lengthy holdout from the team following a difficult contract negotiation that resulted in the Bengals placing the franchise tag on the star safety, which he refused to sign.
Bates has not participated in any team offseason work since the team lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI on February 13. Now though, Bates is reported back in the building ahead of join practices and a preseason game with the Rams in the final week of the preseason for the NFL.
While Bates is back in the facility in Cincinnati, there is no word on whether he’s officially signed his franchise tag tender at this time. However, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the star safety is expected to sign his franchise tag Tuesday.
Once Bates signs the franchise tag for the 2022 season, he’ll be guaranteed $12.91 million for the 2022 season, but will remain on a one-year deal and will hit free agency next offseason.
The return of Bates gives the Bengals a significant boost on the defensive side of the football under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who helped pilot the Bengals’ defense to new heights in 2021. Bates’ return will provide the Bengals with a ballhawking safety on the back end, pairing with cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton and fellow safety Vonn Bell to form a lockdown secondary once again.
One of the top playmakers on Cincinnati’s defense, Bates has emerged as one of the best safeties in the game after being a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Wake Forest. A second team All-Pro in 2020, Bates has recorded 408 tackles, 10 interceptions, 35 passes defended and two forced fumbles over his four years in the NFL. As the primary defender in coverage, Bates has allowed just a 58.0 passer rating in his career.
“Jesse’s a good guy, we like him. It’s been two years we’ve been trying to extend him, we didn’t get there,” Bengals general manager Mike Brown told reporters prior to the start of training camp, according to Jay Morrison of The Athletic. “We will have a chance at the end of the season again to do that.”