Pratt ‘wasn’t surprised’ Bengals return happened as defense faces changes

Credit: Charlie Riedel

Credit: Charlie Riedel

CINCINNATI – Germaine Pratt wasn’t surprised it worked out for him to return with the Cincinnati Bengals. He knew he wanted to be back, and he made that clear to the team early on, he said.

The Bengals officially signed Pratt to a three-year contract extension on Tuesday.

Originally a third-round pick of the organization in the 2019 draft, Pratt will be a fifth-year player in 2023. He has played in 62 regular-season games with 54 starts and last season set career highs in tackles (99), tackles for loss (six), passes defended (10) and interceptions (two).

“I wasn’t surprised,” Pratt said in a news conference moments after signing his contract at Paycor Stadium. “I knew what I wanted to do and I know what this organization is trying to do, and I want to win, they want to win so I want to be back.”

Pratt’s comments right after the AFC Championship loss to Kansas City seemed to indicate maybe he didn’t expect to be back, noting it was his last game in an emotional outburst coming off the field that was caught on camera. Pratt said he never thought he wouldn’t be back, but he didn’t have any guarantees beyond the life of his contract, which was set to expire Wednesday.

There also was some uncertainty on the outside whether the Bengals would financially be able to afford what he might be seeking for his second contract, especially with limited cap space and expectations Joe Burrow will be getting a big contract extension the organization has to account for in the future.

Asked if he tested the market at all, Pratt didn’t indicate if there were other conversations but he said he was focused on staying in Cincinnati.

“Like I said, I knew what I wanted to do,” Pratt said. “I talked to Zac early on. I didn’t want to go to a team that is losing and now we got like a new quarterback. I got a top 5 quarterback in the league. Why leave? We were one play away from going to the Super Bowl again so why would I leave? I want to win.”

Pratt also saw Cincinnati as his best chance of growing as a player because of the continuity with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Asked if Anarumo had gotten the Arizona head coaching job if he still would have returned to the Bengals, Pratt said he wasn’t sure because maybe the Cardinals would have been an option to consider then.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to make that decision.

“I mean, it means everything, you know your DC,” Pratt said. “This will be my fifth year with him, so it’s huge. You get to play fast and keep on elevating your game and stuff. I think working with Lou, every year you can see in the league that I have improved. So why would I try to go somewhere else and learn a new system, probably slow down and not keep on steadily improving as a player. I want to be an impact player and keep on improving with my game, so that’s why I came back.”

Pratt’s return was at least one bright spot for Anarumo on an otherwise difficult day for his defense Monday with both starting safeties coming to terms with other teams. Jessie Bates will be signing a reported four-year, $64.02 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons, who are now making him the fourth highest-paid safety in NFL history.

Vonn Bell, who many thought would be back, was able to secure a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers.

“Well it’s always the darkest before the dawn, so here we go,” Anarumo said Tuesday. “We’ll figure it all out. Sad for us, but those guys it worked out for both of them in their careers. They were great for us and wish them nothing but the best - both Vonn and Jessie.”

Of course, Anarumo was glad to have Pratt back, noting he “has risen his game to a level that is championship level football” and has been “a big part of what (the Bengals have) built.” However, Anarumo said he was “selfishly” hopeful both Bell and Bates would return.

Replacing two veteran safeties will be a challenge, but “that’s this league and players move on and you always have to adjust.” Cincinnati drafted Dax Hill and Tycen Anderson last year but those are big shoes for two young players to fill.

“Well, we just got to see how it all shakes out here over the next few weeks, who we end up getting both in free agency or the draft, and then kind of putting it together,” Anarumo said. “We still have to be able to do what we do. It will be interesting. We’ll problem solve all the way along and see how it goes.”

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