Playing the waiting game is working out nicely for Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III.
Minkah Fitzpatrick reset the market when he signed a four-year, $73.6 million extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers in June that made him the NFL's highest-paid safety.
Now, the price for an elite safety has climbed even higher, with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting the Los Angeles Chargers agreed to a four-year, $76.4 million pact with Derwin James.
That's bound to have major implications for the Bengals and Bates, who's set to play the 2022 NFL season on the franchise tag. Fans are already writing epitaphs for his Cincinnati tenure.
Bengals ownership has a longstanding reputation for being cheap. This offseason, the franchise has handed out $127.1 million in new contracts, but only $38.6 million of that is guaranteed. Per Over the Cap, the latter figure is the seventh-lowest in the league.
That's not necessarily how you'd expect a contender to act after being on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl just one year prior.
As much as last season's success created optimism for the future, how Cincinnati handles Bates will be a sign as to whether anything has actually changed within the organization. His departure would inevitably raise concerns about 2021 being an anomaly rather than the start of things to come.