Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates almost certainly won’t be back with the team in 2023.

Bates and the Bengals haven’t been able to work out a contract extension over the past two summers and it’s extremely unlikely that they will this upcoming offseason (Bates and the Bengals simply can’t agree on a contract number).

The former Wake Forest standout is playing on the franchise tag this season, which he begrudgingly signed after a short holdout.

If Bates does end up leaving Cincy, the Bengals are going to miss him…a lot.

Bates isn’t just a great player on the field, he’s also a great leader and mentor. And even though he knows he likely won’t be back in Cincinnati next season, he’s still mentoring the Bengals’ young players and helping them grow.

In fact, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo praised Bates on Monday for the way he responded to a mistake by rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt.

Instead of pointing fingers or getting frustrated, Bates immediately coached Taylor-Britt on the right thing to do.

That kind of leadership can’t be faked. And I think it’s something the Bengals’ defense will miss next season if Bates doesn’t return.

Players aren’t just paid based on on-field performance. The locker room leadership and culture building are part of their job, too. It’s something that can’t be quantified, but it’s important nonetheless.

I know the Bengals have a lot of tough financial decisions on the horizon. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have big paydays looming. But I still think Cincinnati needs to find a way to keep Bates in a Bengals uniform. He’s too important to this defense to just let him walk away and sign elsewhere.

Featured image via Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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