After a wild summer that included a lot of speculation, Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates is reportedly back in the facility on Tuesday.
Bates had been away from the team while protesting the franchise tag (placed on him by the team earlier this offseason) and his lack of a contract extension.
The expectation was always that Bates would return to the team sometime in late August.
Once the deadline to work out a long-term deal passed, Bates lost any leverage he had. A trade wouldn’t have made sense due to not being able to work out an extension with a new team.
Bates’ only option was signing his franchise tag, reporting to camp, and playing the 2022 season while earning $12.9 million.
One reason why Bates may have returned on Tuesday is the strong play of rookie Dax Hill.
Hill, the Bengals’ first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, turned some heads in Cincinnati’s 25-22 loss to the New York Giants this past weekend.
The former Michigan standout is widely viewed as Bates’ replacement in Cincy. And so far, it looks like he’s going to be more than capable of handling that position.
Breaking news: #Bengals safety Jessie Bates, after not reporting for training camp at the start due to failed contract negotiations, is back in the team building, a source tells me
This comes a day before the team starts practices against the Rams. @Enquirer
— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) August 23, 2022
Bates, however, knows that this is a contract year. And if he’s going to cash in next spring, he needs to have a strong 2022 season.
I could see him watching Hill this past weekend and deciding it was time to get back before the rookie carved out too big of a role in the defense.
The return of Bates will strengthen the Bengals’ defense while also giving the team one of its key team leaders back.
It’s Super Bowl or bust for Cincinnati in 2022, so I’m sure the whole team — from the front office to the players — is happy to have Bates back.