CINCINNATI – The Bengals have had a very successful offseason, but one thorn in their side has been the process regarding Jessie Bates III and his contract status.

The Bengals hit the former second-team All-Pro safety with the franchise tag back in March, but he later said he has no intention of playing under the tag.

Since then, the two sides have been separated since and two things remain unclear: a) if Bates III and the Bengals will reach a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline and b) if Bates III really holds himself out of training camp (or holds-in) in late July.

The uncertainty of the situation is on full display, no doubt. However, Joe Burrow didn’t sound too uncertain when discussing his perception on the matter.

“Jessie’s a big part of this team,” Burrow told reporters Tuesday. “You can put a price tag on what he does on the field, but I don’t think you can on what he does in the locker room. He’s been a guy who has kinda built what we’re doing here – he was one of the firsts.

“Jessie’s exactly the kind of player that I think you want to reward for the work that he’s done for the last four years. Through the ups and the downs. We weren’t very good for three years while he was here. He’s been through it all.”

Burrow is very close with Bates III. So close the two are in fact taking a trip to Vegas soon, per Burrow himself. But a big reason why they have the relationship they do is because of Bates III’s ability to connect with his teammates.

And for Burrow, that’s an invaluable trait to have on this Bengals team.

“It’s tough,” said Burrow. “You know he’s one of those guys that I talk about being able to hang out with anybody on the team. He’s one of those kind of guys that can have a conversation with anyone on the team and make them feel welcome.

“And I think those guys are invaluable to an organization and a program that’s trying to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.”

Bates III doesn’t want to play under the $12.9 million franchise tag in 2022. He wants a long-term deal. It makes sense considering his level of play over the course of his career and how much he factored into the Bengals Super Bowl run.

Burrow has his own day approaching when he’ll be looking for a new deal. It could even come as soon as 2023. Burrow’s staying optimistic when it comes to Bates III and his situation, but it can also be used as a teaching moment for what to do or what not to do once that day comes.

“We’re hoping that everything works out in his [Bates III’s] favor,” said Burrow. “I know that he’s working really hard … He’s going to be ready to go for whenever he gets here…. Business is business … I know that when it’s time to show up, he’s going to be ready to go.”

Featured image via Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports