Free Agent No. 1 – Jessie Bates
I struggled to think that Jessie Bates was a realistic option for the Cleveland Browns a few weeks ago. But after listening to Andrew Berry talk earlier this week, you can tell he is in win-now mode. He is willing to restructure to create as much cap space as possible to bring in a high-caliber player like Bates.
There's no doubt that the Cincinnati Bengals would love to hold on to him, but if they want to keep this offense together (Joe Burrow, Ja’Mar Chase, and Tee Higgins) there are going to be some cap casualties. Remember, Mike Brown is one of the cheapest owners in the NFL and often isn’t willing to utilize signing bonuses to bring down the cap.
Bates is the perfect fit for the Browns. He's a ball hawker who has the ability to step up in the box for run support at well. He has five interceptions and 12 pass deflections the last two seasons and was one of the biggest leaders for the Bengals who have gone deep into the playoffs the last two seasons including a Super Bowl appearance in 2021.
There are two issues with Bates in my opinion.
One, will he take less to stay with the Bengals? Two, if he’s willing to leave over money, will the Browns be willing to give him the most? For two years we have said free agents will be drawn to Cleveland because the roster is so strong, but can we really say that anymore?