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Falcons reportedly will land top safety Jessie Bates III

Atlanta lands the crown jewel of the safety class and an impactful player they’ve long been linked to.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Falcons have been linked to free agent safety Jessie Bates III for a while now, and it seemed like everyone was expecting him to land in Atlanta. That’s enough to make a veteran Falcons nervous, given how infrequently players we covet land with our favorite team, but it turned out all that reporting and rumor-mongering was correct. I couldn’t be happier about it.

Per NFL insider Ian Rapoport, Bates will sign with the Falcons, assuming nothing drastic changes between now and Wednesday at 4 p.m. The team has landed perhaps the best free agent safety available, and a player they clearly coveted.

As you’d expect, it’s a big deal, one that’s heavily front-loaded to take advantage of Atlanta’s cap space in the moment.

Bates has been a tremendous safety for the Bengals most of his career and is just 26 years old, making this a rare opportunity for Atlanta to land a potentially elite player at the position who is still very much in the prime of his career. Bates will pair with Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, and whoever else the team ultimately adds to the position to give Atlanta a young, athletic group at safety.

On his own, Bates will make a huge impact for this defense. He was a borderline elite run defender at safety last year for Cincinnati, is very good in coverage, and can be mighty opportunistic, with four interceptions and just over 51% of the targets heading his way actually being completed, per Pro Football Reference. The Falcons will count on him being an eraser on the back end of the defense and a player who can help out a moribund run defense alongside new addition David Onyemata up front. At least over the next two-to-three seasons, Atlanta will count on him being a difference-making presence at safety, and he seems likely to live up to that billing.

With the addition of Bates and Onyemata to the defense, the Falcons have taken big steps to share up a pair of trouble spots, and are unlikely to be close to done. If Bates is as good as we hope he can be, we may finally be welcoming a new and better era in Falcons defense. For the moment, a warm welcome for the new safety is in order.