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No, the Bengals should not trade Jessie Bates

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Now that the standoff between the Cincinnati Bengals and Jessie Bates officially continues well into training camp, if not the regular season, fans have started to look at the long-term picture a bit more.

And one smaller idea keeps popping up — trading Bates now.

The only correct answer to that is no.

Yes, the Bengals could move Bates once he signs the franchise tag. Yes, the return could be notable, potentially a second-round pick. Maybe a first from a team that’s really desperate or in a position of luxury, but they’d have to pay up big on an extension too. And yes, the team drafted Dax Hill and Tycen Anderson this year.

But those are largely hypotheticals. Were the Bengals not a Super Bowl contender right now they might make more sense. But what isn’t a hypothetical? Bates’ near-All-Pro level of play, how his range opens up the defensive playbook and the impact he has on the locker room that has even Joe Burrow lobbying for him.

The reality is that this Bates saga hasn’t taken any stunning, unexpected routes. He was always going to protest the franchise tag, as any player does. He hasn’t signed it yet, in part, because then he won’t get fined for missing training camp. And skipping training camp, if he even does that, is largely just to make sure he doesn’t get hurt and ruin his chances at a big extension later. And frankly, the Bengals’ extension offer wasn’t all that great. All Bates is doing now is using his last bit of leverage before he plays the season on the tag.

Trading Bates, then asking Dax Hill to come in and reach a level of play that enables Lou Anarumo to run all those different looks just isn’t realistic. It might not even be a good move next year, let alone this year. The Bengals are a much, much better team with Bates on the field. A 2023 draft pick in return for Bates is a long-term value that might not even be a high pick if the team keeps contending, anyway.

Keep in mind there’s also an angle where the Bengals and Bates still work out a deal at a later date. Or maybe he hits the market after another up-and-down season and doesn’t get the deal he wants and comes back anyway. And if that doesn’t happen, the Bengals are set up nicely with Hill.

Nobody is saying the team isn’t team-building properly. Signing Bates, the only superstar, All-Pro player and a team captain at 25 years old on the defense would make sense. But so does looking at the league trends and going all-in on the offense, rightfully expecting the Burrow-led unit to start doing the heavy lifting.

Funnily enough, this Bates situation fans seem so distraught over has a silver lining in the form of Dax Hill getting first-team reps way, way before he otherwise would.

Barring a jaw-dropping, unrealistic trade for an instant contributor, which won’t happen because other teams know Bates is likely gone after this season and will low-ball the Bengals, there’s no sense in making that sort of move. Bates himself could ask for a sign-and-trade, but under the current CBA, he’s certainly not sitting out the entire season.

Don’t get it wrong, trade hypotheticals in July are always a fun way to pass the time. But these are just the dilemmas a contender faces, as do young star players trying to maximize value. The Bengals are immensely better and the championship window stays open much wider with Bates on the field, not traded away.

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Bengals fans, NFL react to Jessie Bates contract situation