On the night of the NFL's franchise tag window opening, Jessie Bates III sent Twitter down a speculative rabbit hole with one eyeballs emoji. Is the star safety re-joining the Cincinnati Bengals, or is something else in the works?
While no news has broken yet, the 24-year-old isn't hiding his desire to stay with the defending AFC champions.
Courtesy of WNKY TV's Patrick Carey, Bates gave a definitive response to where he wants to play.
However, Bates also made clear his preference to sign an extension rather than play the 2022 season under the franchise tag.
“We will see," Bates said when asked if he'll play on the one-year tag. "Hopefully I am not under a franchise tag. You just gotta play your cards right.”
Bates has his teammates' support. Last weekend, he retweeted a post from cornerback Mike Hilton imploring the Bengals to extend Bates. Linebacker Logan Wilson co-signed the sentiment.
Last November, Bates said contract uncertainty was affecting his play. While he struggled to live up to his lofty standards earlier in the season, the safety rebounded to help propel Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl in 33 years.
Given that admission, it may behoove the Bengals to lock up the rising star to a long-term deal rather than tag Bates. Under the franchise tag, he'd earn approximately $13 million in 2022 (as projected by Spotrac) before becoming eligible for free agency the following offseason.
Bates wants to stay in Cincinnati, so it seems likely the two sides figure something out to keep him around, at least for one more year.