Browns expected to target Bengals safety Jessie Bates after cutting John Johnson

It sounds like Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates could end up staying in Ohio during his trip to free agency if the Cleveland Browns have their way.

According to’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns will release safety John Johnson III by March 15 so that they can pursue names like Bates on the open market:

“The Browns are expected to pursue Bates III if he’s not re-signed, franchised or traded to another team. Bates, a 2020 second-team All-Pro, would likely average more than $14 million a year in a new deal, but he’s the impact the safety the Browns are seeking to replace Johnson. He had four interceptions in 2022.”

Before this, the most notable team expected to be in on Bates during free agency was the Atlanta Falcons due to need and his hanging out with Falcons players recently.

Bates is an ideal fit for the Browns defense, though it would be interesting to see how the front office there makes it all work financially with so many major contracts already on the books.

Still, it’s not a fun idea for the Bengals to face Bates twice a year, especially because of his prior knowledge of his former team.

No matter where Bates ends up going, it indeed feels like he’s guaranteed to leave with the Bengals drafting Dax Hill in the first round last year and wanting to shift more money to the offense.

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Story originally appeared on Bengals Wire