The Cincinnati Bengals are in a tough situation as they enter training camp.

One of Cincinnati’s best defensive players — safety Jessie Bates — wants a new contract. And he appears committed to not reporting until he gets that new contract.

Bates had the franchise tag placed on him by the Bengals earlier this offseason. He wasn’t able to work out an extension with Cincy and he still hasn’t signed his franchise tag.

That means Bates and the Bengals are essentially playing a game of chicken right now. Will Bates really skip out on $12.9 million (that’s what the franchise tag for safety pays this year) by not playing this season? Or will Bates eventually sign the franchise tag and play this season?

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Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) watches a replay on the board after the Ravens score a touchdown in the first quarter of the NFL Week 17 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. The Ravens led 17-3 at half time.
Baltimore Ravens At Cincinnati Bengals

The easy solution for Cincinnati would be to trade Bates and roll with rookie Daxton Hill as a starting safety in 2022.

But that might not be as realistic as it sounds.

Pro Football Network’s Mike Kaye pointed out several major issues this week with a potential Bates trade.

As Kaye points out, dealing Bates likely won’t command a large return for the Bengals.

That’s mostly because Bates will be viewed essentially as a “rental” by whichever team acquires him. Because Bates had the franchise tag placed on him, he can’t agree to a multi-year deal until after the 2022 season (that deadline passed earlier this month). That means if a team trades for him, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to extend him. And if the new team places a second franchise tag on Bates after the 2022 season, they could find themselves in the same situation as Cincinnati this offseason and the Seattle Seahawks a couple of years ago.

From Pro Football Network:

Bates’ situation is comparable to Jadeveon Clowney’s deal in 2019. The Houston Texans placed the tag on Clowney in March, and he held out until late August — right before the start of the season. Clowney was then traded to the Seattle Seahawks for two players and a third-round pick.

Since the contract extension deadline passed, Clowney had to play on a one-year deal. As part of the trade, the Seahawks agreed not to franchise tag him the following offseason. That decision proved to be unfortunate for the Seahawks, who were left in the lurch by Clowney. He signed with the Tennessee Titans in September 2020, which actually prevented Seattle from receiving a compensatory pick for his departure.

Clowney was considered a top-tier pass rusher, which is a position that — for the most part — has more value in league circles than safety. Clowney only fetched a third-round pick and a pair of defensive role players, so it’s not like the Bengals can expect heavy compensation for Bates. For a franchise that is known for standing firm, does it really make sense to just give into Bates’ “holdout” from the tag for minimal gains?

At this point, the best move for the Bengals would be to stand firm and hope that Bates eventually reports. I can’t see Bates sitting out the entire season and missing out on almost $13 million. I think the far more likely scenario is that Bates waits until preseason starts to end his holdout, sign his franchise tag, and play.

The thing with Bates is that he’s not “holding out” for a new deal at this point. He can’t do anything on that front until next offseason. So even if he gets traded, he’s still not going to get the long-term deal he wants this fall. That’s why I think he’s eventually going to play for Cincy this season. And I think he’ll be a pro about it. He’s close with the players on the team (especially with Joe Burrow), so I wouldn’t worry too much about the locker room. This is just business. And both sides have to do what they think is in their best interest.

Featured image via USA TODAY Sports