4 former Bengals players who will thrive in 2023

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots
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Jessie Bates III

Argue and debate all you want about whether or not the Bengals should've paid Bates what he wanted, but he is a good safety. He's easily top 10 in the league, and you could even make a case for top five. With what Atlanta ended up paying him, I sure expect he'll be top five.

Bates did have a down year in 2021, easily the worst of his career especially if you look at his coverage stats, however, his 2022 campaign did go better. It might not be as spectacular as his first three seasons in stripes, however, he posted a career-high in interceptions (4) and allowed a career-low completion percentage when targeted (51.4%). However, among everything else, he is a great tackler.

He might not have gone over 100 tackles on the season in '21 or '22 (which interestingly coincides with when the Bengals' defense truly got good) as he did in his first three years, however, he doesn't let ballcarriers slip away easily. He posted missed tackle percentages of 7.4% in 2021 and 9% in 2022. Considering the league average is about 12% for Defensive backs like Bates, these numbers show his reliability when it comes to bringing the guy with the ball down to the turf.

The Falcons, like the Panthers, are also a team that has a lot of young guys on defense-- notably, AJ Terrell-- to which the Wake Forest product can bring a sense of leadership and that veteran experience.

Also, while Bates has seen back-to-back down years in 2021-2022, it's important to note that last 2021 was really when the contract drama started, so it's not too far of a reach to say that talks and being disgruntled with the lack of progress with ownership might have affected his play. Now that he has a multi-year, big-bucks deal, I feel like he'll have a career year in Atlanta.