The Cincinnati Bengals were unable to reach a long-term deal with Jessie Bates III, creating an uncertain future with the star safety in Cincinnati. With his contract situation unresolved, Bates did not report to training camp with the other Bengals' veterans on Tuesday, according to NFL Network.
When asked about his starting safety on Monday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he expects Bates to show up at some point.
"I don't want to make any predictions. I've talked to Jessie and that's up to him when he shows up and we will be ready for him," Taylor said, via WKRC-TV. "Communication with him has been good. In the meantime, it's important for Dax (Hill) to be ready."
If Bates misses considerable time, Daxton Hill is in line to start at safety. The Bengals drafted Hill in the first round this year as a contingency plan in case Bates leaves Cincinnati after this year or refused to sign the franchise tag. Cincinnati prepared for this situation with Bates, but would rather have him with the franchise with the core players that helped the Bengals win the AFC Championship.
"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 said. "We will have a chance at the end of the season again to do that."
One of the top playmakers on Cincinnati's defense, Bates has emerged as one of the best safeties in the game. 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.
While Bates didn't have a 100-tackle season like he did in his first three years, he finished with 88 tackles, one interception, and four passes defended -- all career-lows. He also allowed 30 catches on 38 attempts and three touchdowns, allowing a 94.5 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage.
Regardless of his performance last season, Bates is in line for a huge payday and seeks more than the $12,911,000 he'd make under the franchise tag this year. Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase will be in line for massive extensions soon, so the Bengals have to think long and hard if signing Bates to a massive deal is worth it.
"It's not easy to fit all these in," Brown said. "I (do) expect Jessie to be here and play for us (this year)."