One Buccaneers free agency target from each AFC North team

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /
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Jessie Bates, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Buccaneers’ target from the Cincinnati Bengals: Jessie Bates lll

There’s no denying the talent of Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield. The latter has already grown into one of the most respected safeties in the NFL. That said, Jessie Bates would still be a huge upgrade in the secondary for Tampa Bay.

As a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, Bates grew into an absolute menace at the safety position. He has become one of the league’s best safeties since he entered the league four years ago, and while the 2021 regular season was a large letdown for a player still seeking a true breakout performance, Bates was phenomenal in the Bengals’ postseason run. In just the four postseason games that the Bengals played, he recorded two interceptions (one in the Super Bowl) and only gave up four completions on 11 targets, for a Pro Football Focus postseason grade of 90.0.

Usually, primetime performances like that build off of regular-season excellence and land a player a large contract, but interestingly Bates and the Bengals seem to be in a rough spot. Bates has expressed displeasure with the organization in the past, and just recently deleted all references to the team from his social media. This, right before free agency, could be the opportunity Tampa Bay needs to swoop in and make an offer.

Additionally, Bate’s playstyle would mesh seamlessly with Todd Bowles’ aggressive defense – as blitzes that leave safeties on an island would now run through one of the league’s premier cover safeties instead of, say, leaving Antoine Winfield solo against Cooper Kupp.

Free agency will be in full swing sooner rather than later, and while the AFC North provides plenty of options for the Buccaneers to pursue, they are far from the only division.