Falcons Free Agency: Jessie Bates III to Atlanta narrative gains steam

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With nearly $70 million in cap space, the Falcons are going to be big game hunting in free agency, and Jessie Bates III has been a popular target among fans.

The All-Pro safety is the top player at his position to hit the open market, and Atlanta has a void. It makes a ton of sense. Moreover, Bates was seen recently in public with Kyle Pitts, AJ Terrell, and Casey Hayward.

After playing on the franchise tag in 2022, Jessie Bates is in line for a lucrative, multi-year deal. The Falcons have been consistently mentioned as a potential landing spot, and PFF agrees:

4. S JESSIE BATES III

2023 team prediction: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have a need at safety, and Bates could be a good fit, especially since they hired Ryan Nielsen, the New Orleans Saints‘ co-defensive coordinator in 2022. Richie Grant is a solid safety for Atlanta, and the Falcons move him all around the field, but they could upgrade Jaylinn Hawkins‘ spot, as he has never graded above 60.0 in his career. Nielsen was part of a Saints coaching staff that always had quality safeties on the roster, such as Marcus MayeTyrann MathieuMarcus WilliamsVonn Bell and Malcolm Jenkins. Bates can step into Williams’ previous role at free safety, and he also has the capability to play in the box and succeed in Atlanta.

Outside of being a very versatile safety, Bates should intrigue Falcons fans even more because of his durability. Last year marked his fifth straight 1,000-plus-snap season. After being taken in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Bates immediately started and has only missed two games in his career.

Spotrac’s market value has Bates garnering a four-year, $42.4 million contract — $10.6 million per year. That would be a fantastic deal, but I don’t know how realistic that number is. Not that he’s better than any of the top safeties, but that AAV is substantially lower than the top of the market — Derwin James ($19.1 million per year), Minkah Fitzpatrick ($18.4 million per), and Marcus Williams ($14 million per).

Regardless of the potential deal, Bates to Atlanta makes sense in every way — talent, timeline, and personality. However, it will cost considerably more than Spotrac’s projection.

Photographer: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

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