After spending two years slashing contracts just to be able to sign their own draft picks, the Atlanta Falcons have emerged from salary-cap hell to be a player on the free agent market.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently picked the best landing spot for each of their top-50 free agents, and they have the Falcons hitting it big with Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates who checks in at No. 4 on their list.
The Falcons have a need at safety, and Bates could be a good fit, especially since they hired Ryan Nielsen, the New Orleans Saints‘ co-defensive coordinator in 2022. Richie Grant is a solid safety for Atlanta, and the Falcons move him all around the field, but they could upgrade Jaylinn Hawkins‘ spot, as he has never graded above 60.0 in his career. Nielsen was part of a Saints coaching staff that always had quality safeties on the roster, such as Marcus Maye, Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell and Malcolm Jenkins. Bates can step into Williams’ previous role at free safety, and he also has the capability to play in the box and succeed in Atlanta. — Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger, PFF
Bates was recently spotted at dinner with several Atlanta Falcons, which simply added fuel to the rumor-mill fire.
Grant made strides in his second season after being a second-round pick in 2021 and appears to be locked in as one of the starters. Bates would be a significant upgrade on Hawkins who is due roughly $3 million in 2023.
While a significant upgrade, Bates would also cost significantly more.
Bates played on the franchise tag last season, earning him $12.9 million with the Bengals.
The Falcons have the second-most salary cap space available in the NFL according to Spotrac and could make a big investment in Bates who despite entering his sixth season, will turn just 26-years old next week.
Grant turns 26 in November.
The Falcons could afford a long-term deal with Bates, and he could significantly improve the back end of Atlanta’s defense.
It makes sense financially for the Falcons, but will it make sense for Bates?
PFF thinks yes.