This offseason provided plenty of drama between Jessie Bates and the Cincinnati Bengals, as the long-time safety vowed that he would not play for the stripes on the franchise tag after they slapped him with it early in free agency.
While Bates came around and agreed to play on the tag, fans haven't been the happiest with him this season. He hasn't looked like his dominant self from the 2018 to 2020 seasons and it's made Bengals fans realize how fortunate they were not to sign him to a long-term deal.
Even with Bates' not-as-impressive season, he's still listed as one of the best pending free agents, per Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus.
"While his 71.1 PFF grade through Week 10 is only 27th-best at the position, his 80.9 run-defense grade is a top-10 mark. Bates is also on track to play his fifth 900-plus-snap season in five years as an NFL player, pairing his above-average skill set with remarkable reliability. He ranks behind only Kevin Byard in regular-season snaps played among safeties since 2018."- Brad Spielberger, PFF
Jessie Bates will have a market this offseason
While the Bengals probably aren't going to sign Bates to a long-term deal, he shouldn't have a problem finding a team that'll be willing to lock him up on a large contract. As Spielberger noted, Bates is great against the run and he's durable. Teams are going to be interested in adding a player who can help them slow down the run and stay healthy throughout the year.
It's disappointing that Bates hasn't been as clutch this season but he had a similar look during last year's regular season and then turned it on during the playoffs. Who's to say he can't do that again this year?