Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates spoke with reporters Wednesday after ending his holdout and signing the $12.9 million franchise tag the team originally placed on him in March.
While Bates is back in the building, he questioned why he hasn't been inked to a long-term deal as of yet.
"It's a great opportunity for me to continue to present who I am and what I’m about to this franchise and other teams as well," Bates said, per CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones.
"I’m looking at this as an opportunity to prove that I’m one of the best safeties in the league. I’m not sure why I’m not paid yet."
Bates and the Bengals were working toward a long-term deal before the July 15 franchise tag deadline, but neither side was reportedly close, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
For the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bengals?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bengals</a> and star S Jessie Bates: The team's final offer guaranteed Bates only $4M more than what he would get if he eventually signs the franchise tag. Big difference is the tag locks Bates in for one year while the Bengals' offer locked him in for 5 additional years.
That meant Bates had to play on the franchise tag in 2022. Bates held out for nearly a month of training camp, but that has officially ended, with Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer reporting the news:
Kelsey Conway @KelseyLConway
Breaking news: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bengals?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bengals</a> 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 <br><br>This comes a day before the team starts practices against the Rams. <a href="https://twitter.com/Enquirer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Enquirer</a>
While Bates is looking for well-deserved long-term security, he did recognize the opportunity in front of him with the franchise tag.
"But this is a great opportunity for me to create some wealth for my family," Bates said.
"This franchise tag number isn’t bad so I’m not going to be naïve to that. …I love this game too much to sit out a whole year."
Bates has played all four of his NFL seasons with Cincinnati after going No. 54 overall in the 2018 draft.
The 25-year-old played an invaluable role as the Bengals won the AFC last year with 88 tackles (67 solo), four pass breakups and one interception. He also snagged a pair of picks in the playoffs, including one in the Super Bowl.
The former Wake Forest star has been a stalwart since arriving with Cincinnati as a second-round pick in 2018, playing and starting all but two games (one of those was to rest in Week 18 last year).
Free agency is looming for the budding star in 2023. But for now, he has returned, and that made franchise quarterback Joe Burrow happy.
"You felt the energy in the locker room when he came back. It was a nice jolt," Burrow said, per Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Cincinnati opens the regular season Sept. 11 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.