Nearly a month away from Cincinnati’s season opener, Bates is set to earn $2.4MM in base salary. The talented safety’s comments on this situation may or may not indicate a certain level of annoyance, but time does remain for the sides to regroup and hammer out an agreement.
“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 this league, which is fine,” Bates said during an interview with the Bengals radio announcers Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham (via WKRC). “That’s fine with me. I’m going to go to work just like any other day, my first three years being here.
“Just being able to have that open conversation with my agent has been great in regards to just having the conversation, very open. I think this will probably be the last time that I speak on the contract just because I think it can get a little messy as far as thinking about it too much.”
No Pro Bowl invites have come Bates’ way yet, but the 2018 second-round pick is coming off a season in which Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s top safety. The Wake Forest product is 3-for-3 in 100-plus-tackle seasons and has intercepted three passes in each of his three pro years. This has not resulted in Bengals defensive success, with the team ranking near the bottom throughout Bates’ tenure, but the 24-year-old defender has largely done his part. He has started all 48 of the Bengals’ games over the past three seasons.
Bates would be a surefire franchise tag candidate, should the Bengals let this play out to that point. They did so with Carl Lawson and William Jackson, letting the defenders finish their rookie deals and leave in free agency. Cincinnati’s current defense features a number of free agency additions; Bates represents a homegrown talent who is poised to land a top-market contract. It will be interesting to see how the team proceeds here.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.