Jacksonville Jaguars better off passing on S Jessie Bates in free agency

Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III (30) vs. the Cleveland Browns at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III (30) vs. the Cleveland Browns at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports /

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a pretty good safety tandem in Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins. However, Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports thinks they should consider going after Jessie Bates III, who is slated to become a free agent.

Dajani put together a list of free agents each NFL team should prioritize and suggests the Jags dump safety Rayshawn Jenkins in favor of Bates.

"Bates played on the franchise tag this past season, and my guess is that he won’t be back with the Bengals in 2023. The Jaguars could save some money by cutting Rayshawn Jenkins, and then put those savings into signing a new free safety who is young and an upgrade on paper. Bates turns 26 in February, and recorded a career-high four interceptions in 2022. He would help what was statistically the fifth-worst pass defense in the NFL last season."

On paper, Bates would be a great addition to the Jaguars’ secondary. A second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, he’s started 79 games over the last five seasons and logged 14 interceptions, 43 passes defensed, and three forced fumbles. The Wake Forest product is one of the best safeties in the NFL and ranks fourth in Pro Football Focus’ top 100 list of 2023 free agents.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are better off keeping Rayshawn Jenkins

Bates is a pretty good player and will be in high demand if he hits the open market. PFF projects he’ll get a five-year deal worth $75 million with $40 million guaranteed. Given that the Jaguars will most likely be working with a limited budget this offseason, pursuing him might not be feasible.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Jenkins is coming off a career year, registering 116 tackles, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, and three forced fumbles. Moreover, he was instrumental in wins over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 and the Tennessee Titans in the finale.

You could make the case Bates is better than Jenkins but releasing the latter in favor of the former feels like a lateral move. As it is, the team’s brass might need to either rework Jenkins’ contract or outright release him to create cap space. Why would the Jags use the savings to pursue Bates? Simply, it doesn’t make sense.

While it’s true that Bates is three years younger than Jenkins, Dajani is making it sound like Jenkins is Methuselah years old when in reality, he just turned 29 and is nowhere near the twilight of his career.

All things considered, Bates would definitely be an upgrade but not by much, and a costly one at that. In this case, the Jacksonville Jaguars are better off going with the devil they know.

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