The Falcons’ biggest free agent contract went to Jessie Bates III this offseason. Atlanta signed the former Bengals safety to a four-year, $64.02 million deal in free agency, a bid Cincinnati was never going to match, according to head coach Zac Taylor.
“It got to a price where we just couldn’t be in the mix,” Taylor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “I’m really happy for Jessie. That’s the way it played out, to be honest with you.”
Jessie Bates is an All-Pro who started 79 games for the Bengals, amassing over 300 tackles and 14 interceptions during his five seasons in Cincinnati.
After being a second-round pick in 2018, the Wake Forest product has been one of the most durable players in the league. Last year marked his fifth straight 1,000-plus-snap season.
Moreover, Bates seemingly played his best ball when the lights were brightest.
“He played his highest level of football on two consecutive AFC Championship game runs,” Taylor said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He had an interception in the Super Bowl for us. Was a leader every step of the way. Really proud for Jessie and happy that he got the contract that he got. He’ll do a great job down there in Atlanta.”
Bates is the type of player every club wants in the building — reliable, team-first, and dedicated. The Falcons were just willing to make him the fourth-highest-paid safety in the league, whereas the Bengals were not, but there are no hard feelings from his former team.
“So, it’s one of those moments where it wasn’t going to work out for us at that level,” Taylor said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Really happy that he got what he deserved from Atlanta. I’m really happy for him.”
Derwin Jones is the highest-paid player at the position ($19 million per year), followed by Minkah Fitzpatrick ($18.247 million per year), and Jamal Adams ($17.5 million). Jessie Bates’ new yearly salary is above Justin Simmons of the Broncos and Budda Baker of the Cardinals.
He was clearly the team’s top free agent target this offseason, and the Falcons weren’t going to mess around, giving him $36 million fully guaranteed and $23 million in the first year of the deal. He’s obviously an ace on the field, earning All-Pro honors, but the Falcons were also interested in his intangibles.
“We not only want players who will be good at their position, but who’re going to make people around them better,” Fontenot said via the team’s website. “(Bates) has done that through his career.”
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