The Atlanta Falcons were among the most active teams in completing moves during the opening week of this year’s free agency period. Among the signings that the Falcons completed, they reached an agreement on a reported four-year, $64.02 million contract with Jessie Bates III. Bates’ deal with the Falcons includes $36 million over the first two years.
Bates joins a Falcons team that has not featured in the playoffs since the 2017 season. The Falcons were in the mix in the NFC South for much of the 2022 campaign, but they were eventually eliminated from the division race following their Week 16 road defeat to the Baltimore Ravens.
Bates is coming off of a five-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals that included quite a turnaround in the 2021 campaign. The Bengals pulled off a run to Super Bowl 56 a season after which they finished in last place in the AFC North standings with a 4-11-1 record.
Bates believes that just as the Bengals shocked the NFL world with a playoff run in the 2021 season, the Falcons can do the same this year.
“You look at the potential of this team and where we can get,” Bates said during his introductory press conference with the Falcons. “I’ve been in that transition year of winning the division and then going to the playoffs and nobody knowing the Bengals were going to go to the Super Bowl. So, I think it’s a very similar situation here.
“This division is up in the air, and it’s for us to take, but we all know that won’t be easy, which is fine. I think that the guys in this locker room are more than capable of winning the division.”
The Falcons have not won the NFC South since the 2016 season when they finished with an 11-5 record in regular season play and orchestrated a run to Super Bowl 51.
Bates capped off his run with the Bengals after five years, where he was as reliable as could be on the defensive side of the ball. Overall, the versatile safety logged 79 starts in the regular season for the AFC North side, and he tallied 479 total tackles.