The Atlanta Falcons continue to make big moves as the free agency period opens in the NFL, and a key defensive piece has reportedly agreed to terms on a new deal.
Former Cincinnati Bengals standout safety Jessie Bates III has agreed to a four-year deal worth $64.02 million with $36 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network.
Bates, 26, has excelled as the Bengals’ free safety since he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Because of that, many knew that Bates’ price tag was going to be high, and the Falcons met the demand at just about $16 million per season over the course of the deal.
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The Bengals and Bates reportedly tried to work on a long-term extension before he hit free agency but were unable to meet at the right number. That’s been the case since last season forced the Bengals to use their franchise tag on Bates to play with them in 2022.
He wasn’t the only Bengal to leave on Monday either as fellow secondary man Vonn Bell is expected to join the Carolina Panthers.
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The Falcons can use all the help they can get on the defensive side of the ball after finishing 27th in the league in total yards allowed per game (362.1) and 25th in passing yards allowed per game (231.9).
Bates allowed a career-low 51.4% completion rate on the 37 targets he faced in coverage last season for the Bengals while giving up a 76.1 passer rating as well.
He also set a career-high in interceptions with four in 16 starts while accumulating 71 tackles, eight passes defended and one forced fumble.
Bates can also tackle well, totaling over 100 in each of his first three seasons.
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Atlanta is flexing its lucrative pockets on Monday, and Bates was just the latest signee. They extended guard Chris Lindstrom to a record five-year contract while trading for tight end Jonnu Smith from the New England Patriots.
Defensively, tackle David Onyemata was also signed to a three-year, $35 million deal. And of course, we can’t forget about special teams: punter Bradley Pinion is locked in for three seasons at $8.65 million.
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In a wide open NFC South, the Falcons are hoping they can use their cap room and solid draft position (eighth overall pick) to compete for a playoff spot. Bates’ addition is another step in the right direction.