Michael RothsteinESPN staff writer3 minutes to read
the The Atlanta Falcons continued their free agent spending spree Monday, agreeing to terms with former Cincinnati Bengals safety Jesse Bates III, sources tell ESPN.
The deal is four years and $64.02 million, including $23 million in the first year and $36 million in the first two years overall, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It makes Bates the fourth highest paid safety in NFL history.
Bates gives Atlanta a top secondary safety for freshman defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen to go with cornerback AJ Terrell, who took the team in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Bates also provides Atlanta flexibility in the defensive backfield as the team returns both of their starts at safety of the season Past – Jaylen Hawkins and Richie Grant.
Bates is the sixth player to agree to terms or commit to the Falcons on Monday. New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onimata agreed to the team’s terms, which also gave Pro Bowl right guard Chris Lindstrom a five-year extension through 2028. The Falcons also traded a seventh-round pick to New England for tight end Jono Smith and a running back, sources said. Keith Smith signed to a one-year deal, and re-signed Bradley Bennion to a three-year deal.
Bates, who made 79 appearances over five seasons with the Bengals, recorded a career-high four interceptions this past season while recording eight pass deflections to pull off one of the most effective pass defenses in the league.
Cincinnati led the NFL in 2022 in opposition completion percentage and had the third-highest total QBR in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research. When Bates was the closest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, opponents were held to a -8.7 completion percentage below expectations.
With an over-the-top post and field range and a history of establishing production on the ball with 14 career interceptions, Bates easily fits into both the individual and deep charts.
He played the 2022 season on the franchise’s one-year tag after he and the Bengals failed to reach an agreement on a long-term extension with him in two consecutive seasons. As the team nears the end of its season, 2018 Round 2 side Wake Forest said it knew it might play elsewhere in 2023.
“I’ve been emotional about it for a long time,” Bates said on January 30. “I’m still numb to it.” Gratitude” is the word I can really describe about everything that has happened here in the last five years that I have been here.”
Bates, who turned 26 in February, had three forced fumbles (2 fumble recoveries) along with 478 tackles and 43 passes defensed. He scored his only touchdown during his rookie season.
ESPN’s Ben Pepe and Matt Bowen contributed to this report.
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