The New York Jets have made significant improvements to their roster this offseason, but the team still has some glaring holes that they’ll need to fill if Gang Green wants to end an 11-year playoff drought — and Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates has emerged as the biggest possible target in a potential trade.
The team boasted a forgettable 4–13 record last year, and finished last in the AFC East.
With the additions of cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, along with multiple other young prospects, Jets fans are hopeful that they may have slightly reinvigorated the long-suffering team heading into the season in September.
They also made a number of notable signings in free agency — including bringing on cornerback D.J. Reed from the Seahawks, tight end TE C.J. Uzomah from the Bengals and safety Jordan Whitehead from the Buccaneers.
The team bid a significant amount of assets in the attempt to acquire Tyreek Hill, the standout wide receiver who spent the last few seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, but they ultimately lost out on that effort to their division rival Miami Dolphins.
But, even with those additions, the defense is still in desperate need of help.
The Jets boast a young offense that is still developing behind sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson, which makes the other side of the ball even more important — and they’re not in the best spot, as New York gave up a league-worst 6,760 yards to opposing offenses.
That puts sophomore general manager Joe Douglas in a tough spot, as he will look to bolster a defense without many more options left around the league.
For more coverage of Jessie Bates and the Jets, head to amNY.com.
Bates, the 25-year-old safety from the AFC champion Bengals, though, was due for a contract this offseason, but after failing to reach a new deal, Cincinnati designated him for the franchise tag — a one-year agreement that would force him to return to the team on an NFL-designated salary.
He has not been thrilled with that news, and he has “no intention” of attending the Bengals’ training camp without a long-term deal in place, and could theoretically sit out the season to become an unrestricted free agent after the year is done.
That makes him a tantalizing trade prospect, as his current franchise is bumping up against the cap limit, and will need to pay quarterback Joe Burrow in the coming years.
If they pursue trade partners, the Jets would be a natural fit, as he would slot nicely in the secondary along with Whitehead, Jason Pinnock and Lamarcus Joyner.
Adding the 25-year-old Bengal would help ensure that quarterbacks would need to think twice before launching deep balls against New York.
The free safety has recorded 12 interceptions in his 4-year career (including one against Matthew Stafford in the most-recent Super Bowl), and has played nearly every game he’s been eligible for, which would allow the team to breathe a sigh of relief due to their weak depth at the position.
Bates allowed just 35.87 yards per game to opposing wide receivers when guarding them himself, and recorded just 12 yards per target to his opponent — a solid number for safeties who often need to provide help against multiple receivers.
The Jets would likely need to surrender future draft capital to make any trade work, but with his contentious contract negotiation ongoing, the Bengals may be willing to send him away on a discount.
If Douglas and the front office makes a move, it would immediately bolster the Jets defense into a much-more vaunted force than they fielded last season.