The Falcons are signing the former Bengals safety to a four-year, $64.02 million deal that includes $23 million in the first year of the contract, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported, per sources.
At an average of $16 million per year, Bates' deal will land him among the top five highest-paid safeties in the NFL. With plenty of cap space available, Atlanta is paying much of the pact in Year 1, investing immediately with the hope Bates can be a stalwart patroller of the secondary who ends up being a bargain in future years.
Bates' move down south doesn't come as a surprise to those in Cincinnati, who expected Bates to depart after the Bengals tagged him in 2022 and the two sides couldn't agree to a long-term deal prior to the July 15 deadline. When Cincinnati declined to tag Bates again, the writing was on the wall.
Cincinnati prepared accordingly, too, selecting Michigan safety Daxton Hill in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and giving him a year to learn behind Bates, who enjoyed a resurgent campaign this past season.
Now Bates is off to richer pastures, where he'll slide into a starting role and be expected to take a leadership role on a defense that has quietly assembled some quality pieces, most notably DT Grady Jarrett and CB A.J. Terrell.