The Falcons committed more than $250 million to contracts this offseason, and the gem of the free agent class was Jessie Bates III.
The club handed out a $64 million deal to Bates, who gets $36 million over the first two seasons and the other $28 million in the last two. It made him the fourth highest-paid safety in NFL history and gave Atlanta a quarterback on defense.
To say the deal has worked out would be a gross understatement. It’s not an exaggeration to call Jessie Bates the best free agent acquisition in franchise history, and it’s only been 11 games. Michael Turner, Matt Bryant, Warrick Dunn, and Alex Mack all have an argument, but Bates takes the cake for me.
Not only is he a difference maker on the field, but he’s also a force multiplier, making others better around him. He’s pretty damn good on the field as well.
Bates leads the Falcons in interceptions, tackles, and forced fumbles, and is second to AJ Terrell in passes defended. Across the entire NFL, he’s sixth in forced fumbles and third in interceptions. No player is in the top 10 of both.
On Sunday, Bates finished with a game-high 12 tackles, a pass breakup, two quarterback pressures, a forced fumble, and an interception returned for a touchdown. The pair of turnovers also came in critical moments as the Saints looked poised to come away with points on both drives.
It’s not a reach to say the Falcons would’ve lost that game without Bates; those two plays resulted in a potential 21-point swing. The same could be said for the season opener too, when Bates picked Bryce Young off twice and forced another fumble.
It’s early in his Falcons tenure, but the Jessie Bates III free agent signing is already paying massive dividends.
Photographer: John Adams/Icon Sportswire