According to Ian Rapoport, the Atlanta Falcons have come to terms with free agent safety Jessie Bates.
“Source: Jessie Bates to the #Falcons,” reported Rapoport on Twitter. “It’s a 4-year deal for$16.005M per year. Wow. 4th highest paid in NFL history.”
The Falcons had been exceedingly quiet heading into the free agency period, but they were carrying a big stick… and a lot of cap space.
Bates is the second-big ticket signing the Falcons have agreed to on the first day of the free-agency contact period. They also came to terms with defensive tackle David Onyemata and traded for cap-casualty Jonnu Smith, a tight end from the New England Patriots.
The Falcons had been linked with Bates since the end of the season. He was seen having dinner with several Falcons players several weeks ago to fuel speculation of his future.
Bates was graded a 71.9 by Pro Football Focus, and he had an elite run defense grade of 88.3, good for third in the NFL among safeties with at least 500 snaps.
Bates just turned 26-years old last month despite being in the league for five years already. His best days of football are ahead of him, and he’ll be contracted to the Atlanta Falcons through his prime years.
The Falcons entered the offseason with a top-ten pick and the second-most cap space in the NFL. They’ve done an excellent job already of addressing big needs up the middle of their defense with Onyemata at defensive tackle and Bates to pair with Richie Grant at safety.
They still need to get right tackle sorted with Kaleb McGary set to become a free agent on Wednesday, and he’s watched two monster deals go to Mike McGlinchey to Denver and Juwaan Taylor to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Falcons will also look to bolster their pass rush and still have plenty of cap room to go after a player like Onyemata’s former teammate Marcus Davenport while getting an edge… or corner.. in the draft with their No. 8 pick.
The Falcons survived cap hell under the first two years of Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. They set the team up to be a player in free agency in 2023 after purging the crippling contracts of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (among others).
Expectations will be on the rise as Fontenot and Smith begin their rebuild in earnest with another top-ten pick and high-talent free agents.
It’s been an exciting week already for the Falcons, and there’s still plenty more to come.