INDIANAPOLIS — Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III is among the notable defensive backs set to become a free agent this month. The Bengals would like to retain the star defender but a deal has to make sense for both sides. The franchise tag could give the player and the team more time to talk without distraction.

Jessie Bates III could receive franchise tag by deadline

Bates, a second-round pick in 2018, has become a fixture of the Bengals’ secondary. Fresh off a trip to the Super Bowl, Bates is the Bengals’ most notable impending free agent. While Bates has made it clear he wants to return to Cincinnati, the two sides have yet to reach a pact on a new deal.

Tobin was asked about the potential of the Bengals using the franchise tag, valued at $13.5 million for safeties, on Bates. The Bengals GM said he wouldn’t break any news on the situation but didn’t rule out the possibility of locking Bates up with the one-year deal. The franchise tag deadline is on March 8 at 4 PM ET.

Tobin, Bengals know how important Bates is to team

Bates produced 88 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and an interception last season. While some critics considered it to be a down campaign for the 2020 breakout star, Bates was a key piece of the Bengals’ defense that helped carry Cincinnati through the playoffs.

Tobin wants Bates to stay in the fold.

“He’s an important part of our team,” Tobin said at the NFL Combine on Tuesday. “We drafted him. He’s a guy that’s developed and that has played well, that has a real role on our team in a lot of different areas, particularly leadership and playmaking skill. He’s a guy we want going forward, we want as a part of our group, and so we’ll see what we can do to get that done.”

According to Spotrac, Bates’ annual projected value is $14.4 million, which would make him the sixth-highest-paid safety in the NFL. The Bengals would actually pay him less by giving him the franchise tag.

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