2022 NFL free agency: Bengals use franchise tag on star safety Jessie Bates III

NFL: JAN 03 Ravens at Bengals
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Jessie Bates III made it clear this offseason he didn’t want to receive the franchise tag ahead of 2022 NFL free agency. On Monday, the star Bengals safety received just that, with Cincinnati announcing it has placed the one-year tender on the All-Pro before Tuesday’s tag deadline. The move robs the impending market of its top veteran safety while guaranteeing Bates a projected $13.5 million contract for 2022, should he sign it, but delays a potential long-term extension.

The 25-year-old Bates, fresh off a play-making postseason that helped guide the Bengals to the Super Bowl, has been seeking a long-term deal with the team since after the 2020 season. A $13.5M payday in 2022 would make him the ninth-highest-paid player at his position, and recent reports indicated the Bengals expected to use the tag on Bates. But the conversation now shifts immediately to the safety’s future — both short and long term — after the two sides failed to strike a bigger deal.

“I put a lot of trust in them with this whole process,” Bates told NFL Network earlier this offseason. “I’m just trying to stay focused, control what I can. We’ll see. Hopefully I’m not under a franchise tag. That’s something that needs to be discussed (at the) NFLPA a little bit. Some of the top guys got hurt under a franchise tag. It’s tough; you only get one shot at this.”

Bengals executives, plus coach Zac Taylor, have repeatedly called a new deal for Bates one of the top priorities of the 2022 offseason. The two sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement, or else Bates will have to play under the tag.

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