Jessie Bates earned his first All-Pro honor last season, landing on the second team and designating himself among the top safeties in the NFL.
Now, he'd like to be paid as such.
Bates is in the midst of negotiations with the Bengals on a long-term extension, but it sounds as if they aren't making much progress. When asked by the Bengals radio team of play-by-play announcer Dan Hoard and color commentator Dave Lapham about the status of his negotiations with the Bengals, he was rather blunt.
"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 appearance on the team's Training Camp Report Live. "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. I've been out there practicing every day. I have a goal that I want to reach, personally, and I know I have to get better to help this team get to where we need to be. I'll let my agent work out the numbers and stuff like that. I'm going to be the best teammate, the best leader that I can be for the 2021 Bengals. We'll see. We'll see what happens."
Bates doesn't sound as if he's closed the door on possibly remaining with the Bengals, but clearly knows his representation isn't close to striking a deal with Cincinnati. He said the right things in his response while also maintaining a mix of honesty and professionalism, turning the focus back toward the field, not the finances.
"This isn't about me, this is about the Cincinnati Bengals and I'm just excited to be a part of it," Bates said.
Cincinnati knows what it has in Bates, an ascending safety who has been very good for the majority of his career. While faces have changed elsewhere in Cincinnati's secondary, Bates has been a constant, and for good reason.
The Bengals would be wise to lock up Bates to a long-term deal. At 24-years-old, he's just entering his prime. He's indicated he'd like to stay in Cincinnati for the long haul. Now it's up to the Bengals and Bates' representation to find common ground, even if it doesn't happen until early 2022.