The Falcons are set to have around $60 million in cap space this offseason, and that figure could quickly balloon to over $70 million if Atlanta parts ways with Marcus Mariota. There isn’t a single position group that doesn’t need top-end talent or depth. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith are entering a critical juncture in their tenure with more cap space than ever. This continues a series of potential Falcons free agent targets, moving on to Jessie Bates III. Below are past editions:
Falcons Free Agent Targets 2023: Jessie Bates III
Currently on the franchise tag, the Bengals safety will likely test free agency this offseason and will garner a lucrative, multi-year deal. Falcons fans should feel comfortable giving him a big free agent deal because he’s incredibly durable. 2022 marks 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. He’s an All-Pro safety that will be 26 years old by the time the 2023 season rolls around.
Many consider Jessie Bates to be a rangy ballhawk who can play the center field role in single-high, and pairing him with a young, inexperienced Richie Grant could do wonders for his development.
Spotrac’s market value has Bates garnering a four-year, $42.4 million contract — $10.6 million per year. However, 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). I imagine Bates will be closer to somewhere in the five-year, $65-75 million range.
There isn’t a single position group on the Falcons that doesn’t need to be addressed. If Atlanta doesn’t find a starting-caliber safety in the draft, Jessie Bates III makes a ton of sense as a building block for the defense. A new coordinator would have two ultra-athletic players on the backend in Bates and Richie Grant.
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