As Jessie Bates III’s Holdout Ends, Timing Couldn’t Be More Perfect

As Jessie Bates III’s Holdout Ends, Timing Couldn’t Be More Perfect

Willie Lutz
3 months ago
3 min read
Bengals safety Jessie Bates celebrates an interception against the Los Angeles Rams

The last time Jessie Bates III put on the tiger-stripped Bengals uniform, it was on Super Bowl Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. The next time Jessie Bates III put on a tiger-stripped Bengals uniform? On the practice fields outside Paycor Stadium… for joint practices against the Los Angeles Rams. 

After holding out through the spring and summer after not coming to terms on a long-term extension in Cincinnati, Bates returned on Tuesday morning to sign his franchise tag for a one-year, $12.9 pact. With Orlando Brown Jr. reporting to camp with the Kansas City Chiefs several weeks ago, Bates was the last player holding out after being handed the franchise tag. 

Certainly, the absence of Bates created a bit of a gap in the Bengals' defense. That gap, however, presented the perfect opportunity for 31st-overall pick, Dax Hill, to fill in as the team’s starting free safety. It’s no secret to Bengals fans at this point: Hill was drafted to replace Bates after it became clear that a two-year negotiation process had gone sideways. 

Dax Hill, for his part, has looked like a future fixture in the defense at times for the Bengals. At other times, he looks like one of the brightest young talents on a roster full of budding players. 

So far this preseason, he’s earned a 73.2 PFF Defensive Grade and 71.3 PFF Coverage Grade across 85 snaps. Not to mention, the Bengals have been trying him out in a bunch of different spots. Hill’s taken 46 snaps at free safety, 22 snaps in the box, 12 snaps as the slot corner, 3 snaps as an outside corner, and 2 snaps on upfront with the defensive line. 

In his two-game stint so far, it’s clear that Hill is not only a future starter for this team, but a player that will be used in a bunch of different ways in 2022. Regardless, he’s slated to take over Bates’s job in 2023. 

For now, it looks like its a big bag of money that’ll give Bates a chance to finish one last ride with the Bengals. Clearly, the team isn’t comfortable handing him the top-dollar value for his position group. That’s even more true now that they’ve watched the Los Angeles Chargers hand Derwin James a 4-year, $76.5 million contract

Where does that leave the Bengals? With the best safety room in the NFL this season. The development of Hill alongside Bates and Vonn Bell couldn’t be a more ideal situation. Bates and Bell are both highly regarded by teammates as leaders. Bates even reached out to Hill after the team’s first day of training camp to offer advice. 

“[Bates] said it’s a blessing to be out there the first day of camp when everything’s exciting, and if there’s anything you need, just reach out to me,” Hill said to a local media gaggle. “It could be awkward if we never talked and he walks in and it’s like, ‘Oh, nice to finally meet you. But he’s been reaching out and making sure I’m good.”

With Bates back in the building and Hill continuing to flash as one of the premier defensive talents from the 2022 NFL Draft pool, it’s an exciting time for the Bengals secondary. 

Further, with just a few weeks left before the regular season, it gives the defense time to mesh together and be an even more fearsome group after their top-ten finish a season ago. For now, it’ll be fun to watch how their defensive coordinator, Lou Anarumo, can mix Hill and Bates in different looks on the field against the Rams in joint practices this week. 

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